Jury selection for the trial of Lori Drew, the Missouri woman accused of illegally creating a fictitious MySpace profile (one that resulted in a fragile 13-year-old girl committing suicide) was supposed to race by today; there was even talk of opening statements being heard late this afternoon. Nothing doing, however – those Tuesday statements were as much a mirage as the “Josh Evans” character that Drew is accused of cooking up in cyberspace to torment the late Megan Meier. Instead, delay piled on delay and voir dire, the process by which potential jurors are questioned by judge and attorneys, didn’t even start until after 4 p.m.
“Did anyone see Suspect?” asked Federal Judge George Wu, addressing a new batch of possible jurors. “It came out about 10 years ago with Cher . . . Liam Neeson and Randy Quaid. You know it was fiction because Cher played an attorney.”
U.S Attorney Thomas O’Brien and Drew’s lawyer, Dean Steward, sat stone-faced. They were not playing at being attorneys, but were seeing the day slip away as the cinephile judge warned jurors not to investigate the case the way Randy Quaid had in a 1987 movie.
The matronly Drew, who faces four felony counts, also sat stoically. It’s not known if she reminds Wu of any movie actresses – perhaps Shelley Winters in mid-career – but her attorney, Steward, let it be known outside the presence of prospective jurors that a good majority of the latter had heard of the MySpace case and “50 percent or more have formed devastating opinions.”
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These ranged, said Steward, looking at some of the juror questionnaires that had come back, from the venomous to the vicious.
“They’re convinced my client is guilty and must be punished.”
Steward said he was not yet at the point of asking for a mistrial (Judge Wu, after all, hasn’t gotten up to Primal Fear yet), but did ask once more that whatever jury is impaneled not have to hear the words “suicide” and “death” during testimony. Steward’s suggestion – which had already been rejected by Wu last Friday -- was predictably batted down by O’Brien, so the defense attorney settled for Wu removing the six potential jurors whom Steward described “as the ones that drip with the most venom for my client.”
Jurors were informed that the trial should take five days, ending on November 24, yet Day One probably won’t start until tomorrow, making that forecast an improbability. There is, after all, so much venom to be vetted.