Four-hundred people will be called as potential jurors when former University of Montana Grizzlies quarterback Jordan Johnson goes on trial for rape, a Missoula County District Court judge said Tuesday.
The third-floor courtroom – the largest in the courthouse – where the jury pool will be questioned in February isn’t even big enough to hold them all. Because the city’s fire code limits the room to 155 people, it’s possible that jury selection could take two days, Judge Karen Townsend said.
Defense attorney Kirsten Pabst termed a 400-person jury pool excessive, “like other aspects of this case.”
But Assistant Chief Deputy County Attorney Suzy Boylan said that “it would be terrible for everyone, absolutely everyone, if we ran out of jurors.”
Johnson was charged with sexual intercourse without consent in July after a fellow UM student said he raped her as they watched a movie at her home in February. His trial is set for Feb. 8, 2013.
But Tuesday’s status hearing in the case made it clear that several contentious issues remain to be resolved before the trial. Johnson’s defense attorneys, Pabst and David Paoli, continue to seek additional text messages from the alleged victim’s phone, along with medical, counseling and school records dating to when she was 5 years old.
Last month, Townsend denied a defense request for all 29,000 text messages sent to and from the woman’s phone. Prosecutors redacted some of those messages, and Townsend’s order said that none of the redacted material would have proved useful to Johnson’s defense.
On Tuesday, Paoli said he wants additional texts because the woman apparently has been communicating by text with the lead detective in the case, as well as a staffer from the First Step sexual assault crisis center.
“So?” said Townsend. “So?” She suggested that if defense attorneys wants to see those messages, they file a new request.
As for the counseling and other records, Townsend told Paoli that the paperwork he’s filed so far doesn’t respond to the state’s claim that he’s not entitled to all of those records.
Paoli said that although the state has provided some of the woman’s records, he’ll file a new request this week for the additional records, including any records of counseling since the alleged assault.
Townsend also asked the defense about “a separate investigation going on involving the victim which the defense has entitled a threat investigation.”
That query triggered a brief, whispered conversation at the bench among the attorneys and the judge. After Tuesday’s hearing, both Boylan and Pabst said they could not comment on the matter.
Johnson did not attend Tuesday’s hearing because he was taking a final exam, Paoli said. Johnson and the woman continue to attend classes at the University of Montana, but remain under a civil protection order that keeps them from coming in contact with each other.