Judge, Not Attorneys, to Question Nacchio Jurors

March 2007

In ordinary, non-high profile federal criminal trials, the Judge, not the attorneys question prospective jurors during the voir dire (jury selection) process. In high profile trials, many federal judges allow the attorneys to augment the judge's questions with those of their own. Locally, Judge Richard Matsch allowed it in the Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols' trials. The Judge presiding over the Scooter Libby trial in Washington and Martha Stewart trial in New York allowed it. Yesterday, Judge Edward Nottingham, who will preside over the trial of former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio, confirmed he will be posing the questions to the prospective jurors and he denied a request by Nacchio's lawyers that their questions be tendered to them via a questionaire.

"It's overkill, in most cases," Nottingham said, adding that most of the questions will be posed by him in open court, where attorneys will be able to observe the demeanor of a potential juror.

The Judge also said that given the Government's relatively small witness list, he expected the Government to conclude its portion of the case in 8 days, rather than the 12 to 15 the Government had anticipated. There's still lots of wrangling going on about classified documents. The defense wants to show the jury that Nacchio had access to classified documents that led him to believe that Qwest was going to get lucrative government contracts. This, they say, negates the Government's argument that he sold his Qwest shares based on insider information that the company wasn't going to meet its profit expectations. This trial will be about Nacchio's state of mind at the time he sold his Qwest shares. The Government likely will use the testimony of some former Qwest officials who have received immunity or plea deals in exchange for information about Nacchio. The Rocky Mountain News today details those possible witnesses . I wonder how interested the public at large is in the case. Is it something you'd like to see us cover here at 5280?

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