Moreau trial expected to start next week
Vail, CO Colorado
GEORGETOWN, Colorado – As more than 120 prospective jurors filled a Clear Creek County courtroom in two groups Friday morning, many folks recognized each other and engaged in carefree, small town chit-chat. Nobody yet knew how long they would be at the courthouse Friday, nor did they know the seriousness of the case in question.
Some commented about the large amount of people called to jury duty – it seemed odd that so many people would be there, one woman said, adding that she had never seen a courtroom so packed for jury duty before.
“They’ll have plenty of people to choose 12 from,” said another woman.
Within a few minutes, District Court Judge R. Thomas Moorhead entered the courtroom and sat at his bench. He immediately told the potential jurors why they were there.
The case these jurors are being called for is the People of the State of Colorado vs. Richard Moreau. There are eight charges against Moreau, Moorhead said, but it wasn’t until he read the first charge that people really perked up.
“Alleged in count one, murder in the first degree,” Moorhead said.
A few sighs and gasps could be heard from the first group of about 70 prospective jurors. The second group of about 50 would later have a similar reaction.
Moorhead went on to read all eight counts against Moreau stemming from the Nov. 7, 2009, shooting at the Sandbar in West Vail. The charges include first-degree murder, two counts of criminal attempt to commit murder, two first-degree assault charges, second-degree assault and two menacing charges.
The prospective jurors listened carefully as Moorhead read the charges. The early morning casual chatter had quickly turned into silence and straight faces.
Moorhead had been through this before with the Moreau case. Last December, about 450 Eagle County residents were called for jury duty, with less than two dozen of them qualifying for a second round of questioning. And of those, no one would be called back because public defenders Dana Christiansen and Reed Owens would move for a change of venue due to what they said was an inability to seat an impartial jury because of the media coverage the case has received locally.
Fast-forward three months and a new group of prospective jurors – from Clear Creek County’s regions or towns of Idaho Springs, Georgetown, Silver Plume, St. Mary’s, Empire and Downieville-Lawson-Dumont – are being carefully scrutinized by both the public defenders, Moorhead and District Attorney Mark Hurlbert and Deputy District Attorney Steve Mallory.
Of the roughly 120 prospective jurors Friday, about half were men and half women. Nearly everyone was white, and age ranges spanned from young adults to the elderly.
Clear Creek County’s population is about 9,088, according to the latest U.S. Census data. The county’s population is 95.3 percent white – or 92.1 percent not including persons of Hispanic or Latino origin – and has a median household income of $60,426, according to data from 2006-2010. The average number of persons per household is two.
Of the county’s population of persons aged 25 and older, 96.9 percent are high school graduates and 41.6 percent hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.
There are also 909 veterans in Clear Creek County, according to the latest Census data from 2006-2010. Moreau, the defendant in the case, is also a veteran.
Moorhead spoke briefly and explained that after the prospective jurors filled out a six-page questionnaire, they could leave for the day. Everyone was instructed to call a phone number Friday evening, and if their names were read on the recorded message, they would not need to report back for the jury voir dire process on Monday.
The questionnaire asked basic information such as name, age, occupation and marital status, but goes on to address specifics about the case.
Have potential jurors ever applied for positions in law enforcement? How do they keep up with the news? Have they heard about the case against Moreau? What do they remember about the case? Do they know any of the persons involved in the case (including victims, responding officers, witnesses, attorneys or the defendant)?
What are their feelings about the criminal justice system? Do they have opinions or feelings, negative or positive, about psychologists or psychiatrists?
Moorhead told the prospective jurors they would not be considering the death penalty at trial. The trial is scheduled for two weeks, he said, and 12 jurors plus 2 alternates are to be selected next week.
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com.