A jury of seven women and five men has been seated in the rape trial of former University of Montana quarterback Jordan Johnson.

Johnson is charged with sexual intercourse without consent in connection with a Feb. 4, 2012, incident involving a fellow UM student as the two watched a movie at her home.

The jury was whittled down from an initial pool of 400 originally called. The selection process took all of the day Friday and until lunchtime Monday. Five alternates -- two men and three women -- also were chosen, an unusually large number because the trial could last as long as three weeks.

Potential jurors were questioned almost exclusively Monday by defense attorney David Paoli, who quizzed them about their beliefs about false rape accusations, about whether athletes get special treatment, and -- repeatedly -- about the presumption of innocence.

Johnson, said Paoli, "has a tough, tough road here. ... Will everybody pledge to us that you'll presume Jordan innocent throughout this entire trial?"

People in the jury pool nodded solemnly in response.

Later, though, one potential juror said he believed athletes do get special treatment.

"To me, rape isn't about sex, it's about power," he went on to say, "and they [athletes] feel they have more power than other people." He was quickly dismissed.

Paoli also questioned members of the jury pool about comments by former Montana Congressman Pat Williams printed last week in the New York Times and by ESPN.com, in which Williams accused UM of recruiting "thugs" for its football team.

About a half-dozen potential jurors said they'd heard the comments and one drew laughs by adding, "I didn't pay too much attention because he's a politician and he does a lot of talking."

On the issue of false accusations, jurors agreed when Paoli asked if they believed those occur. A handful recounted stories of friends or family members who found themselves falsely accused by women who later recanted.

Paoli also asked members of the jury pool if they had any concerns about the presence of an assistant attorney general - Joel Thompson - on the prosecution team. After many expressed curiosity, Missoula County District Court Judge Karen Townsend explained that the Attorney General's Office has a special unit that assists in high-profile cases and that the practice is not unusual.

And, Paoli brought up the ongoing federal investigation into the Missoula County Attorney's Office, the UM campus police and the Missoula Police Department about how sexual assault cases are handled.

"It sounds as though you are implying that [the Department of Justice investigation] ... is creating a conflict in this case," one potential juror said.

"Do you have concerns?" asked Paoli.

"I do now," said the person.

Missoulian reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, gwen.florio@missoulian.com, or @CopsAndCourts.

(10) comments

Pascal
Pascal

She could have ruled that the person be labeled as "alleged victim" so, yes, the judge is biased here.

Bittersweet
Bittersweet

"To me, rape isn't about sex, it's about power," he went on to say, "and they [athletes] feel they have more power than other people.".

...........

Unless I misunderstood the timeline the article implies this potential Juror was actually dismissed quite late in the process which is a little scary.

Roger
Roger

There's also the matter of the biased judge in this case, who ordered that the accuser be referred to as "the victim" - as if it were a fact that she had indeed been raped. This ignores the important legal principle of presumption of innocence of the accused. I don't see how this cannot be a problem if the accused is convicted.

DoItRight
DoItRight

The judge didn't order the term be used, but merely stated that it wouldn't be barred.

Alan Johnson
Alan Johnson

You are misrepresenting what happened. You make it sound like she proactively issued an order to include the language. That's at the very least disingenuous. She ruled on a defense motion to eliminate the words "victim" and "defendant" from the trial. The defense was definitely trying to blaze a new chapter in criminal jurisprudence with that motion. There's not a district judge in this state that would have granted such a motion. From now on, the judge rules on objections raised by either side, but the fact finder is the jury. The judge will probably have no say in the verdict, unless she grants the routine motion to dismiss when the State rests its case. I doubt she will because I see that the state will be able to meet the minimum burden of raising enough of a case to go to the jury. She has no say in the verdict at all, once the defense finishes its case and it goes to the jury.

Bass Whacker
Bass Whacker

Has to be a Florio report, just couldn't limit the story to what happened in court today, had to reference the Fed investigation. Earth to Gwen, do you suppose if Johnson is acquitted the Feds will end their inquiriy and pull out of town? Neither does anyone else, so there is no point in mentioning that investigation in this story, except of course for your agenda.

JY78
JY78

Paoli brought up the federal investigation at trial today.

Bass Whacker
Bass Whacker

I was commenting on the posted version of the story before Gwen added her byline and the addtional information. That version stated nothing about voir dire questions about the fed investigations, just stated as fact the U was being investigated.

montanamuralist
montanamuralist

As soon as you make a comment they change the story here but leave the comment...nice. In the previous story Gwen told us about the people who stated they believed football players were arrogant and felt entitled etc etc and those potential jurors were dismissed. 7 women and 5 men sounds fairly decent mix. Hopefully we now can get to facts...as long as Townsend lets the defense explore facts...so far that has not been her best thing.

montanamuralist
montanamuralist

Yeah I guess that juror would not make a good choice....thanks for focusing on that one for this story. Sort of like you constantly tell us about the "gang rape" incident that has no names, no victims, no charges...no nothing up to this point but appears in most stories about UM athletics. No wonder people have those attitudes.

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