Officials take nine hours to select 12 jurors
ELKINS – It took nine hours for officials to select a jury Tuesday out of a pool of more than 100 people for a sexual assault trial in Randolph County Circuit Court.
Randolph County Clerk Phil Riggleman reported that 131 individuals showed up in court on Tuesday.
From that group, 12 jurors and two alternate jurors were selected for the trial of Derek Jason Shifflett, which is set to begin today.
Shifflett, 30, of Elkins was indicted on 50 counts of first-degree sexual assault, a felony; 50 counts of sexual abuse by a parent, guardian or custodian, a felony; and 50 counts of incest, a felony.
The indictment alleges that Shifflett had sexual intercourse with a family member under the age of 12 on numerous occasions between Oct. 1, 2011, and Sept. 30, 2012.
On Jan. 2, Prosecuting Attorney Michael Parker moved to dismiss 66 of the 150 counts against Shifflett, “based on information that (the State) had obtained in preparation for the case.”
On Tuesday, Parker and defense attorney Chris Cooper said they planned to call approximately 20 individuals to the witness stand – including the alleged victim – during the trial.
Tuesday’s was the third jury selection scheduled in Shifflett’s case. The first, a marathon 12-hour process on Sept. 10, 2013, resulted in a mistrial after inconsistencies were found in some of the jurors’ responses. The second selection was set for Jan. 6, 2014; however, due to extreme winter weather conditions, only half of the jury pool appeared in court on the selected date, so the jury selection and trial was set for this week.
The process was long on Tuesday, but Circuit Court Judge Jaymie Godwin Wilfong said it was expedited considerably thanks to the work of both Parker and Cooper, who collaborated on a thorough 13-page questionnaire that each juror was requested to fill out in advance. The attorneys, along with Wilfong, went into the jury room and sorted through the potential jurors’ questionnaires 30 or so at a time.
“The counsels were very thorough when writing these questions, specifically for the purpose of acquiring a fair and impartial jury as efficiently as possible,” Wilfong told the jurors as they waited in the court room Tuesday morning.
“It helps us eliminate a large group of people from the jury pool early so that we don’t have to interview each and every one of you individually.”
After the initial wave of cuts, Wilfong moved on to a second wave of questions that she asked the remaining group out loud. Wilfong asked questions that focused on whether or not any of the remaining potential jurors had any connections to the parties involved in the case.
The third wave of questions followed a lottery drawing of the remaining potential jurors. After 20 jurors and four alternate jurors were selected, both Parker and Cooper asked the jurors specific questions about the nature of the trial.
Finally, the last step of the selection process was the striking of potential jurors. The prosecution is permitted to strike two jurors from the pool, and the defense is allotted six strikes.Both parties can also strike alternate jurors. For this trial, four alternates were selected and the prosecution and the defense each struck one, leaving two alternates.
After the process ended, Parker told The Inter-Mountain that the state was glad to have a jury in this case and is looking forward to the trial. Cooper declined to comment on Tuesday.