Bart Johnson jury selection Day 3: six jurors struck

Published 12:49 pm Wednesday, May 4, 2011

By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – Retired Shelby County Circuit Court Judge Al Crowson’s courtroom recessed for lunch today at 12:30 p.m.

When jury selection resumes at 1 p.m., potential jurors will continue to be individually questioned in preparation for the murder trial of a Kimberly man accused of killing a Pelham police officer.

Bart Johnson faces two counts of capital murder, one for intentionally killing an on-duty police officer and another for intentionally causing death by shooting from an occupied vehicle.

Johnson has pleaded not guilty to both charges by reason of mental disease or defect.

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

So far today, 32 potential jurors have been questioned, with six of those being excused from service.

One was man was struck with cause without ever being questioned, because he is related to a law enforcement officer who was a first responder to the scene of Davis’ shooting.

Another man was struck with cause after saying several times that he could not consider the death penalty if Johnson is convicted. “I don’t think it’s my responsibility to take someone else’s life,” the man said, later adding, “thou shall not kill.”

Another man was struck with cause after saying he couldn’t put aside preconceived opinions on the case and weigh fairly only the evidence presented in court. He said basic facts of the case, taken from newspaper accounts, were discussed in his Sunday school class, which he said prayed for the victim’s family. The man said he gave money to a fundraiser for the slain officer’s family.

A woman was struck with cause after saying she had a fixed opinion on the case based on facts she read in the newspaper and saw on TV.

A man, a Pelham resident whose wife is an attorney, was struck with cause in part because he said several times that he was “85 percent certain” Johnson is guilty. He indicated he might have trouble weighing fairly the facts presented in court.

A woman was struck with cause after saying she didn’t think she could weigh evidence fairly. The woman attends a Pelham church with at least two Pelham police officers, though she said she does not know them personally. The woman said she donated money to the slain officer’s family. She said, upon questioning by the defense, that she didn’t think she should sit on the jury.

The trial could begin as early as Thursday at the Shelby County Courthouse.

Jury selection began Monday, with 127 potential jurors filling out lengthy questionnaire forms before being split into two groups.

Sixty-four potential jurors were individually questioned Tuesday. The other 63 are being questioned today.