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Jury selection starts

By B.J. Plasket
The Daily Times-Call

DENVER — The trial of former detective Linda Arndt’s suit against the Boulder Police Department bogged down during jury selection Tuesday as several jurors expressed negative opinions of the police department.

No jurors had been seated at the end of the day.

U.S. District Judge William Downes is scheduled to continue interviewing jurors this morning after a day in which the reputation of the Boulder Police Department made it tough to find unbiased jurors among the 30-person pool subpoenaed for the trial.

Arndt’s suit claims both former police chief Tom Koby and current chief Mark Beckner violated her free-speech rights by not allowing her to publicly defend herself against accusations of ineptitude in the JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation.

Jury selection, which was scheduled to take less than a day, ground to a halt Tuesday morning just as it was beginning. It began late after Downes spent the first hour of the day in his chambers with lawyers from both sides.

The first 14 potential jurors — seated in the jury box after being selected randomly — were asked if they held negative feelings about the Boulder Police Department.

Eight of them answered yes.

Downes then took those eight jurors to his chambers for further questioning and continued to interview the remainder of the pool behind closed doors for the rest of the day.

A clerk came into the courtroom just after 4:30 p.m. and said juror questioning would continue this morning. The clerk would not say how many of the 30 jurors had been dismissed during the secret questioning but said potential jurors would be interviewed both in private and in open court today.

Arndt never made eye contact with Koby or Beckner while in the courtroom and remained in the courtroom chatting with family members when her lawyers went into Downes’ chambers with Koby, Beckner and their lawyers.

Koby, who had grown a beard and shoulder-length hair after quitting his post, was clean-shaven, and his hair was cut above the collar when he and Beckner arrived dressed in dark business suits.

Just before the jury-selection problem arose, Downes said he hoped to seat a jury and begin opening statements before the end of the day.

Downes said he will seat 14 jurors and will give each side three “pre-emptory challenges,” meaning each side can dismiss three jurors without giving a reason. Eight jurors will eventually hear the case.

Although the number of jurors dismissed on Tuesday was not announced, at least eight members of the pool were seen leaving the federal courthouse before the trial was recessed for the day.