Jury candidate calls questioning ‘surreal’ | VailDaily.com

Jury candidate calls questioning ‘surreal’

Matt Zalaznick

EAGLE – Kobe Bryant didn’t say much and many potential jurors wanted to go home, says a woman who was among the final 174 residents in the Kobe Bryant jury pool. Sara McClure, a 25-year-old graphic designer and Eagle-Vail resident who works at the Vail Daily, was due back at the Eagle County Justice Center for more questioning Thursday. But the dismissal of the sexual assault charge against Bryant Wednesday night relieved her of any further duty to the court. “I would have made an awesome juror,” McClure said. “I felt the whole thing wasn’t any of my business.”McClure first went to the court last Friday to fill out an 82-question survey, the first step in the attorneys’ evaluation of the jury pool. The questionnaire took about an hour to fill out. Few of the 300-plus potential jurors talked to each other and when finished, they handed their surveys to a bailiff, she said. District Judge Terry Ruckriegle and attorneys for both sides read through the questionnaires over the weekend and weeded some candidates out of the jury pool. McClure had been told to call the court at 5 p.m. Sunday to find out if she had been selected for further questioning and should return to the courthouse. When she called the first time, the message said there was a delay and to call back. She got the same message around 7 p.m., she said. At 10 p.m. Sunday, a very long message listed the number of every potential juror not required to return. But when she heard her number, she was instructed to show up at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday for a private interview with the judge, prosecution, defense and Bryant. When she arrived, the atmosphere was livelier than her previous visit to the courthouse, she said. “They told us not to talk about the case, even amongst ourselves, but that’s the only thing you can think of to talk about,” she said. “So nobody talked about the case. We just talked about being a juror.” A court worker also gave some further explanation of the case to the batch of jury candidates she was sitting with in one of the courtrooms, McClure said. “People had a lot of questions, like how much are they going to get paid and what if you’re self-employed,” she said. “Nobody wanted to be there.””I thought I had a good excuse, working for the paper,” she added. “Everybody was trying to come up with excuses.” For potential jurors who didn’t bring any reading material to kill time during what was likely to be a long wait, the court provided copies of National Geographic.”It was the one thing they could put out that didn’t have any Kobe news in it,” she said. McClure was the second person called in to be interviewed by the judge and attorneys. She was led down a hall into a court chamber, where she was asked to sit at the head of a conference table. The judge was sitting across from her, Bryant and his lawyers were to her left, and the prosecution team was on her right. “I didn’t know Kobe was going to be there that day,” she said. “It didn’t sink in where I was. It was really surreal. I felt like I was watching a movie.” Bryant didn’t say anything, but sat grinning, she said. “I looked straight at the judge. I couldn’t look at Kobe. I was wondering what he was thinking of me. I knew the lawyers were looking at my reaction to him,” she said. Ruckriegle asked about her response to a survey question that asked if she every worried about being sexually assaulted. “I checked ‘yes’ – I’m a girl, that crosses my mind,” she said. “I said I worried about it being alone in a dark parking lot.” Upon further questioning, McClure admitted to the judge she was probably more afraid of the dark than anything else. “I’m 25 years old and I’m afraid of the dark,” she said. Defense attorney Hal Haddon then asked her if working for the Vail Daily would prevent her from making an unbiased decision in the case. McClure, who doesn’t work directly with reporters or other members of the news staff, said she mostly skimmed the paper and hadn’t extensively read the Bryant coverage. Haddon asked her if she was friends with either reporter Randy Wyrick, who has been covering the case, or Don Rogers, the managing editor. “I told him I talk to Randy all the time, but not about the case,” she said. “There was this tone about the paper.”When McClure was asked if anything about the coverage of the case stood out, she mentioned reports that semen belonging to someone other than Bryant was found in his accuser’s underwear, she said. “This was the most bizarre part – everybody’s in suits and you’re in front of a judge, and I had to say ‘semen’ in front of a judge,” she said.The prosecutors did not ask her any questions, and she was sent into the hall. A few minutes later, a court worker come out and told her to return on Thursday. On Wednesday, however, she learned the case was over. “I was so happy,” she said. Matt Zalaznick is the assistant editor for local news at the Vail Daily. He can be reached at 949-0555 x. 606 or via e-mail at mzalaznick@vaildaily.com. Vail Colorado

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