Sparse turnout for juror selection in Aspen rape trial
ASPEN – Jury selection in the trial of a man charged with sexually assaulting an Aspen woman continues Tuesday in Pitkin County District Court, where only 45 of the 250 juror candidates appeared Monday.
Of the 45 who appeared, 17 were dismissed, leaving 28 prospects in the jury pool, officials said.
Monday was the first day of jury selection in the trial of 22-year-old Emanuel Gonzalez-Loujun, the Carbondale man accused of sexually assaulting the victim three times outside of the Centennial Apartments complex in the early morning hours of Jan. 17, 2009. He was arrested the same morning.
The jury selection and trial come after more than a year of courtroom arguments over legal issues in the case, and now it appears that selecting 12 jurors and one alternate will not come easily. There was even talk in the courthouse halls that deputies could be dispatched to the Aspen post office or other public places to round up juror candidates, provided a jury cannot be seated with the existing prospects.
Before Monday, an estimated 95 of the 250 jury summonses were dismissed because the candidates did not live at the addresses to which the summonses were sent, or the juror candidates had provided the court with legitimate excuses why they could not attend. That left 155 jury summonses that resulted in the attendance of 27 women and 18 men.
“We expected between 60 and 100 people to be here,” said Carolyn Jemison, clerk of court and jury commissioner.
She said the no-shows could be partly because of spring break or because of issues with the addresses to which the summonses were sent.
Meanwhile, a portion of the process known as voir dire – when prospective jurors are questioned to determine if they have any biases or if they are competent – was held in the chambers of Judge James Boyd, instead of the open courtroom, because of the sensitive nature of the questionnaires that candidates filled out in the morning, officials said.
Juror candidates met individually with Boyd, prosecutors Arnold Mordkin and Richard Nedlin, and public defenders Tina Fang and Stephen McCrohan. The meetings were closed to the public, and lasted up to 30 minutes for some candidates, and as little as five minutes for others.
The remaining portion of the voir dire, which will address aspects of candidates’ personal lives such as their education, employment and interests, will be conducted in open court.
Gonzalez-Loujun appeared briefly during the morning portion of the jury selection process, when candidates watched a video explaining their roles as jurors. The defendant wore a dark suit and tie, the first time he had appeared in the courtroom wearing something other than orange jail clothing.
Since his arrest, Gonzalez-Loujun has been in jail on $250,000 bond. If convicted, he faces a lifetime in state prison.
He originally was arrested for allegedly assaulting a police officer and drug distribution charges, after cops encountered him walking away from the apartment complex when they were responding to a report that a rape had occurred.
Police say they found 13 bindles containing cocaine on Gonzalez-Loujun’s person at the time of his arrest.
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