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February 07, 2006

The jury's picked -- time to tell is here

Tell them what you're going to tell them.

Tell them.

Then tell them what you've told them.

That ancient advice to speech-makers also describes the task facing lawyers after the jury is seated and the trial begins. Jeff Terronez and David Hoffman will do the first of the three "tell-thems" at 9 a.m. Wednesday when they make their opening statements in the Sarah Kolb murder trial in the Lee County Courthouse in Dixon.

I've never heard Terronez, RICO's state's attorney, or assistant public defender Hoffman do opening arguments. The many I have heard range from dry recitations of the evidence to be presented, to stump-style stemwinders, though the latter tend to be more common in closing arguments. Dry or eloquent, long or short, the opening statement's purpose is to acquaint the jurors with the side of the story each lawyer wants them to accept. Prosecutor Terronez goes first; Hoffman goes second.

Then comes the second of the three "tell-thems" -- the evidence. After that, some two weeks hence, the third "tell-them", final arguments will be made.

The "audience" for the lawyers was rounded out this morning, with the selection of two jurors and four alternates -- a total of 16 people to sit in the jury box. Forty-six prospects were questioned Monday and this morning before the contingent was completed.

The 12 jurors who'll decide Ms. Kolb's fate (assuming illness or whatever doesn't require an alternate to take over) comprise seven men and five women. There are four teachers, one of whom is retired. There is a truck driver, a registered nurse, a civil engineer, a machine operator, a mental health technician, a retired bank cashier, a farmer and an insurance broker. The alternates, all men, include a correctional officer, a carpenter's union business rep, an accountant and the owner of a landscaping service.

Age wasn't much discussed during selection, but I'd guess, based on appearance, that they're all more than 30 and that several are 60 and up. Four or so have been on juries before. They've all promised that, for the duration, they won't talk to anyone about the case, won't read newspaper stories about it, watch TV reports of it or be ot on the internet googling for information about it. Their decision, they've promised, will be made based only on what they hear from the witness stand and on the exhibits entered into evidence.

They've also promised to "use their good common sense and human experience" to assess the truthfulness of witnesses, and to consider all testimony in light of other testimony and the exhibits.

Twelve pretty ordinary people to decide an extraordinary case.


Two of this morning's selections created a buzz among the eight or so reporters covering the trial. The final regular juror, a grandmother, said an ex-husband is doing life in prison for a 1970s child molestation conviction. She passed on the chance to be questioned in private about how that experience might affect her ability to judge fairly in this case. She said the ex is "where he needs to be" and that she has no animosity toward the criminal justice system, which worked.

The big surprise was the selection of an alternate who's a lieutenant on the guard force at the Dixon prison. He knows lots of police officers, said his favorite TV show is "Cops." Seemed a bit like an automatic "thank you and good bye" but after a brief conference at the defense table among Hoffman, Heintz and Kolb, Hoffman said the prospect was accepted.


Jury selection was completed just before noon. The reporters dashed from the courtroom to the parking, to get their cell phones (can't take them in the courthouse) and phone in updates for websites and noon newscast. The news crowd includes Brian Krans from the D/A, Chris Minor from Channel 8 in Moline, complete with a gigantic live-broadcast truck; Barb Ickes who's covering for both the QCT and Channel 6 in Davenport; and Patrick Salem of the local paper, the Telegraph. Channel 4 from Rock Island is here, too, though the exact reporter seems to change a couple of times a day.

Everyone grabbed a quick lunch and retreated to trial headquarters, the Reagan Hotel, to get full stories filed and then enjoy a few free hours.

Terronez and Hoffman, along with most other members of the prosecution and defense teams, are at the Reagan, too. Suspect they'll be holed up with last minute preparation work. Me, I'm thinking a nap might be just the ticket.

Posted by jcb at February 7, 2006 04:49 PM


John, are all of the Reynolds' family in the courtroom every day? Kolb's family? Do you sense the prosecution team will launch a new strategy this time around?

Posted by: anonymous at February 7, 2006 11:38 PM