POWELL TRIAL BLOG: Jury selected in Steven Powell trial

Posted at 7:55 AM, May 08, 2012

UPDATE 4:49 p.m. PST: The judge has DENIED a prosecution request to introduce journal entries by Steven Powell, with one exception: one where he writes about taking pictures of young girls.

The judge says he is concerned about the entries prejudicing the jury. Many of those entries deal with Susan Cox Powell, and Steven Powell's infatuation with her.

The trial will begin with opening statements tomorrow morning. The first witnesses, including a Pierce Co. Sheriff's detective and the mother of two young girls that Steven Powell is accused of photographing, will testify tomorrow.

UPDATE 4:19 p.m. PST: Judge Culpepper seated the jury, gave them instructions and released them for the day.

He said he will rule on whether or not to admit Steven Powell's journal entries about Susan Cox Powell after a brief recess.

UPDATE 3:50 p.m. PST: We have a jury, Judge Culpepper announces. The jury of 12 (plus two alternates) is comprised of seven men and seven women. They all appear to range in age from 30s to 50s. Two of the jurors are African-American, the rest appear to be white.

UPDATE 3:39 p.m. PST: Lawyers are huddling, comparing lists to pick the jury. It looks like we're very close now.

UPDATE 3:19 p.m. PST: The attorneys have finished questioning the jury. Now they select the 12 people (and two alternates).

"Don't take it personally!" Judge Culpepper told the prospective jurors if they are not selected for the jury.

UPDATE 3:08 p.m. PST: "I'm old school. There's two sides to every story," a man says when asked how he would feel about serving on the Steven Powell jury.

"I think I would be pretty fair," another woman said.

Prosecutors finished questioning the jury pool. Defense attorney Travis Currie asked a few more questions.

"The defense does not have to put on any evidence AT ALL," Currie told the room. "Anyone got a problem with that?"

No hands went up.

UPDATE 2:31 p.m. PST: The Pierce Co. Superior Court has just released some of the filings made within the past day in the Steven Powell trial.

Read the state's response to a defense motion to dismiss the child pornography charge.(Note: the charge was dropped by the judge yesterday.)

Read the defense's memorandum discussing various pre-trial motions. This filing includes their arguments over not allowing his journal entries about Susan Cox Powell into court. Some of those motions are still pending before the judge.

Read the questionnaire that prospective jurors have been asked to fill out.

Read a declaration of one of the prosecutors, discussing what is on a disc seized by police that they claim contains thousands of images. Some of the videos are of Susan Cox Powell, filmed without her knowledge, prosecutors claim. (WARNING: the content is GRAPHIC.)

UPDATE 2:12 p.m. PST: Prosecutor Bryce Nelson asks the crowd how many were "excited" to get a jury summons. Some hands shoot up.

"Something new," a woman says.

"It's an honor to serve," another prospective juror says.

How many dreaded it? Some hands go up.

"We have a vacation coming up," another juror said.

"Surprisingly, it's not what you think," a man said. "I hate the thought of driving downtown and finding a parking place!"

When they found out they would be on the Steven Powell trial jury?

"I feel honored," a woman said.

UPDATE 2:02 p.m. PST: A prospective juror who heard a radio report on the Steven Powell trial and the child pornography charge being dismissed is being questioned.

Juror #11 saw a newspaper website's headline about a charge being dismissed. Juror #18 heard a radio report. Juror #29 saw a TV report on the trial at his mom's house. Like the others, he remains in the jury pool.

Juror #30 closed a website headline as soon as he saw it pop up.

"Talk real fast. Not kidding," Judge Culpepper told lawyers who said they still have many more questions for the jury pool.

UPDATE 1:25 p.m. PST: Steve Powell appears relaxed and is chatting with his defense lawyers as we wait for the afternoon session of jury selection to start. He is smiling, chatting animatedly with his attorneys.

He smiles at his daughter, Alina, who is sitting in the courtroom. Across the aisle is Denise Cox, the sister of Susan Cox Powell.

UPDATE 11:55 a.m. PST: Currie asks if anyone has any concerns about the case, or whether they have seen too much or heard too much about the case.

No hands go up.

"Is it just too close to lunchtime?" Currie jokes.

After a few more questions, the jury breaks for lunch.

Lawyers asked the judge to allow them to question the jury individually about media coverage of the trial. The judge agreed, but said he would like to have a jury empaneled by about 3:45 p.m. PST.

UPDATE 11:33 a.m. PST: Questioning prospective jurors, defense attorney Travis Currie asked how many people had NOT heard anything about the Steven Powell case. Eleven hands went up, nearly a full jury panel. He smiled.

About 10 acknowledged seeing/hearing/reading something about the trial in the media yesterday.

Then Currie brought up "the elephant in the room."

"This case is NOT about Susan Powell, Josh Powell, or the death of the boys. We won't be talking about that," Currie said.

He's continuing to ask about media exposure to the case. A lot of prospective jurors said they had seen headlines or teases on TV, but had turned away from it.

"Something about a ruling," one said.

UPDATE 11:14 a.m. PST: As the 56 prospective jurors were brought into the courtroom, Steven Powell smiled at his daughter, Alina, who sat in the back. He seemed more relaxed than he was yesterday.

Prosecutor Grant Blinn begins the mass questioning by asking if anyone has served on a jury before. Some of the prospective jurors acknowledge it is not like what they see on TV.

Blinn asks who watches "Law & Order" or "CSI," and whether it is real.

"There's some parts of it that are real," a prospective juror says.

Blinn asked prospective jurors if they'd ever been watched without their knowledge. One woman stood and said her husband installed a home security camera without her knowledge and filmed her eating.

"I was livid," she said.

Another woman said she once caught a peeping tom looking at her as she showered.

"It was a lesson to be more careful," she said, adding that she did believe she could be fair and impartial.

UPDATE 10:25 a.m. PST: Individual jurors are being questioned. They have reported they might have trouble being impartial.

Juror #10 said her ex-husband was Tasered by police and later died. However, she told the judge she had no problem with law enforcement.

Juror #11 reported she had been sexually abused as a child. She was emotional talking about it in court, and said she didn't think it would be a pleasant case to be on but would be fair and impartial if asked to serve.

Juror #26 apparently knew Josh Powell through a social club for "rockhounds," she said. She has been dismissed from the jury pool.

Juror #35 says she saw a lot about the Josh Powell case on the news and also volunteers for CASA (working with child crime victims/witnesses). Pressed by prosecutors, she said she can be impartial. Defense attorneys pressed her, and the judge outlined the case.

"Hearing this about children... I think it would really bother me," she said.

The defense asks for her to be excused. The judge dismisses her.

Juror #37 says he doesn't believe the laws involving child crimes are "tough enough." He was dismissed from this jury.

Juror #36 saw an interview Steven Powell gave on TV about Susan Cox Powell, saying it makes it hard for her to be impartial. Pressed if she could be fair, she struggled.

"I don't know, to tell you the truth," she told prosecutors.

She was excused.

Juror #52 works at the Pierce Co. Jail. He said he is aware of the Steven Powell case through the news and work. The judge asked if he could not mention the fact that Powell is in jail. The defense raised issues with it, and the prosecution agreed. The juror was excused.

Juror #63 says she might have trouble seeing pictures involving children. She is excused.

"Good morning, all!" juror #65 said as she walked into the courtroom. "I'm a little bit nervous."

She did say it would not be difficult to remain impartial. She revealed her brother mentioned something to her about the Steven Powell case this morning.

"Can I be biased? Yes, I can be biased," she said.

"Can you be unbiased?" defense attorney Travis Currie asked her.

"Oh yeah," she replied.

She said she believes sex crimes need tougher penalties, but said she can be fair.

Juror #69 says she can be fair, but acknowledges she has "read a lot about it." The defense asks for her to be dismissed, the state opposes it, saying she can separate herself from the media coverage. The judge keeps her.

There are 56 potential jurors in the pool. The judge will next question the remaining pool of potential jurors.

UPDATE 9:12 a.m. PST: Steven Powell was led into court, looking much more energetic than he did yesterday. He turned and smiled at his daughter, Alina, who was seated in the courtroom.

Jury selection resumes with the questioning of nine individual jurors. Judge Ronald Culpepper decided to wait on making his ruling on the journals allegedly written by Powell until later in the day.

TACOMA -- Jury selection is expected to wrap up today in the trial of Steven Powell, the father-in-law of missing West Valley City mom Susan Cox Powell.

A judge dismissed a child pornography charge against Powell, 62, after defense attorneys successfully argued that what he is accused of doing did not fit within the definition of the law. In announcing his ruling, Judge Ronald Culpepper said it did not appear that anyone "posed or directed" the alleged victims in a sexual manner, so it was not child pornography under Washington state law.

Powell still faces 14 counts of voyeurism, which carry a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison on each count.

Culpepper said he would rule this morning whether or not to allow the jury to read journal entries allegedly written by Steven Powell, detailing his obsession with Susan. Pierce County prosecutors said the writings are sexually graphic and describe him stalking his daughter-in-law, taking video of her in secret.

"I'm a voyeur and Susan likes to be admired," prosecutors read from one of the journal entries. Another proclaimed: "I'm a voyeur and Susan's an exhibitionist, we're a perfect match."

Powell allegedly declared himself "out of control sexually" in another writing. Defense attorneys have asked why the entries about Susan are relevant to the trial. Powell's attorney, Travis Currie, said they had the potential to prejudice a jury because of the high-profile case surrounding Susan's disappearance.

"It really surprised me the extent of his infatuation with my daughter," Susan's father, Chuck Cox, told FOX 13 outside of court on Monday.

Thousands of images seized from Steven Powell's Puyallup, Wash., home may be shown to the jury. Judge Culpepper said he would review any challenges on a case by case basis. (Read the state's memorandum on the images here.)

Opening statements in the trial will be made on Wednesday. A Pierce County Sheriff's detective and the mother of two of the children Powell is accused of illegally photographing will testify.

Detectives from West Valley City police and one of Powell's daughters, Jennifer Graves, are expected to testify next week. The trial is expected to go to the jury next Tuesday.

Keep checking this post for updates throughout the day on the trial of Steven Powell. You can also follow FOX 13's Ben Winslow on Twitter.