Jury selection begins for Bart Johnson trial

Published 3:36 pm Monday, May 2, 2011

Jury selection began May 2 for the murder trial of Bart Johnson, who is charged with shooting and killing Pelham police officer Philip Davis. (File)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The murder trial for a Kimberly man charged with shooting and killing a Pelham police officer could begin as early as May 5, after jury selection for the trial began May 2.

Bart Johnson is facing two charges of capital murder, one for intentionally killing an on-duty police officer and another for intentionally causing death by shooting from an occupied vehicle. He has pleaded not guilty to both charges.

Johnson’s charges came after Pelham police officer Philip Davis was shot and killed during a traffic stop on Interstate 65 in December 2009.

On May 2, retired Shelby County Circuit Court judge Al Crowson split 127 potential jurors into several groups and scheduled each group to return to the courthouse for questioning May 3-4. No motions were made by the state or the defense on May 2.

“The jurors will return for individual voir dire on Tuesday and Wednesday, and they will return for general voir dire on Thursday,” said Gregory Cox, one of Johnson’s defense attorneys.

Voir dire is a process during which attorneys question potential jurors to determine if the jurors have any biases before they are chosen for the trial. Common questions include “Do you have any previous knowledge of this trial?” and “Do you know the defendant?”

“It’s those questions and a lot more,” Cox said.

After the jury returns on Thursday, it likely will take “a couple of hours” to get a 12-member jury seated for the trial, said Shelby County District Attorney Robby Owens.

“We could be calling our first witnesses right before lunch on Thursday,” Owens said.

Once the trial begins, it likely will take about two weeks to complete, Owens said.

“I expect the whole thing to take two weeks,” Owens said.

The first group of jurors will return to the courthouse for questioning at 8 a.m. Tuesday.