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Munday jury chosen

October 22, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

The trial of David Eugene Munday, the man charged with shooting a West Virginia State Police trooper a year ago, got off to a slow start Tuesday, with the day spent selecting a jury.

A 15-person jury, including three alternates, was seated and sworn at 4:45 p.m. Opening statements are to be heard today and testimony is to begin. Jurors are to be taken to Harper Lane in Hedgesville, W.Va., which was the site of the Oct. 10, 2002, shooting.

Trooper R.J. "Bobby" Elswick was shot once above his left ear on that night and continues to recover from the wound. He walked slowly into the courtroom, with the help of a cane and friends and family members. Elswick entered the courtroom as a routine procedure to determine whether any of the jurors knew or were related to the case's victims or witnesses.

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Munday, 38, of Hedgesville, earlier this year was indicted on 28 counts related to the shooting and the events that preceded it. Circuit Judge David Sanders spent 15 minutes reading the indictment aloud.

Munday is charged with: Entering without breaking, two counts of breaking and entering, three counts of kidnapping, six counts of wanton endangerment, one count of malicious wounding, four counts of attempted murder, four counts of brandishing a firearm, three counts of shooting a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling, one count of assault, one count of destruction of property, one count of attempting to commit a violent injury, and one count of fleeing on foot.

The trial began when 150 potential jurors were called Tuesday morning to Sanders' courtroom. Twenty names were randomly selected and those people were questioned as a group.

Potential jurors were asked whether they have any special knowledge of guns, whether they have any bias for or against law enforcement, whether they believe police officers should consider the risk of being injured a consequence of the job, whether they are a member of the NRA or a gun control group, or whether they have any personal experience with mental illness or domestic battery.

Two people were dismissed after they said they have a problem with the fact that a person can be found not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity.

Many chuckled when the jury pool was asked whether they believe police investigations are conducted like those seen on television shows.

Most of the 20 people raised a hand when asked whether they knew something about the case or had read or seen media coverage. Sanders then asked how many knew nothing about the case, prompting four of the 20 people to raise a hand.

When Sanders asked whether any possible jurors had discussed the case with anyone, two answered that they had. One woman said she had discussed it with people at her workplace, while the other said he had talked about it with his barber. Both were dismissed.

Other questions asked included whether anyone had contributed money to fund-raisers conducted on Elswick's behalf. One man, a teacher, said a money drive was undertaken at his school. He was later named a juror.

After a lunch break and as the afternoon wore on, the prospective jurors were called individually into a private room for additional questioning by Sanders, Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely and Munday's attorneys, Margaret Gordon and Robert Barrat. Several people were dismissed after those meetings.

When the same process was repeated to select alternate jurors, the 100 or so people left in the courtroom started clapping when a person was kept as a potential alternate juror rather than dismissed.

When it was apparent one woman was going to be dismissed, meaning another name would have to be called, Sanders walked out with the woman and joked that nobody should "boo" her.

Not long afterward, the jury was selected.

After the jurors were sworn, Sanders warned them not to read any media accounts of the trial and not to discuss the case with anyone, including members of their families or fellow jurors. He outlined what they could expect today.

After the jurors left for the day, Gordon requested a change of venue, citing possible prejudice within the jury panel.

Games-Neely countered that none of the 12 jurors or three alternates expressed any bias. Sanders concurred, saying he was liberal about striking any juror who expressed a fixed opinion about the matter. He denied the motion for a change of venue.

Games-Neely said she expects the trial to spill over into next week, but Gordon said she believes it might conclude this week.

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