Tyson sides pull no punches as jury selection begins

January 28, 1992|By Ron Borges | Ron Borges,Boston Globe

INDIANAPOLIS -- One day into jury selection for the trial of Mike Tyson, the apparent strategies of the prosecution and defense became evident yesterday as attorneys questioned 20 prospective jurors in Courtroom 4 at the City and County Building.

With every juror, Greg Garrison, the hired gun who will prosecute Tyson on charges of deviate sexual conduct, confinement and rape of an 18-year-old beauty pageant contestant July 19, hammered home two issues.

Time after time, he said to the prospective jurors: "A woman's mistaken judgment who she is with or where she goes does not mean it is OK to get raped. It does not mean it is not a crime. Poor judgment doesn't excuse an assault. What are you doing there is not a defense."

He asked each juror if they agreed with those statements.

In nearly every case, he then followed up by saying: "No means no. Do you agree? If a woman says no and is forced [into having sex], it's a crime. You don't have to have cuts and bruises. Her mistake in judgment is not an excuse for a crime."

Vincent Fuller, the $5,000-per-day lawyer who will defend Tyson, countered with what is sure to become his defense strategy -- that the young Rhode Island woman "implicitly complied" to have sex with Tyson without ever using the word yes.

Just as often as Garrison pounded away at his point, Fuller did the same on what he sees as the key issue.

"The issue in this case is one of consent," Fuller told one juror. "Consent can be expressed or it can be implied. Do you agree? It can be implied by the facts and circumstances surrounding events. Do you agree?"

Both Garrison and Fuller consistently received affirmations from the 20 men and women called, but only five of the necessary 16 were seated. Four men and one woman survived the challenges of the two sides and Superior Court Judge Patricia Gifford.

The process will begin again today. Garrison said he felt confident that the full jury would be seated by the end of the day, with opening arguments to begin no later than tomorrow afternoon.

Of those jurors chosen yesterday, only one was black, a high school teacher's aide who works with behavioral disorders in the Indianapolis school system.

The remaining jurors included a body shop worker, a truck driver, a T-shirt silk-screener and a housewife who said she reads the Sunday newspaper "just to get the coupons" and claimed to be otherwise devoid of an interest in the news, either local or national, although she conceded that she listened to the weather report.

Surprisingly, an overwhelming majority of the prospective jurors said they had little knowledge of Tyson or the case and insisted almost to a person that they had not formed an opinion on Tyson's guilt or innocence despite the high-profile nature of the case.

Although this seemed to shock many of the more than 100 reporters from around the world who have gathered to cover the case, Garrison said he was not surprised at all.

"Everyone said they thought that would be a problem, but I never did," Garrison said following the 7 1/2 -hour opening session. "This is the Midwest. People here concentrate on their own lives."

He was then asked about the first five people selected on the jury, as well as a Methodist minister the prosecution fought to retain in the jury pool despite his protests that the affairs of his congregation prevented him from serving. Tyson's attorneys rose at the end of the day to request that he be excluded because of his obvious reluctance to serve, and Gifford agreed over the protests of deputy prosecutor Barbara J. Trathen, who is assisting Garrison.

"There's almost nothing we can say on the people who did make it or the people who didn't," Garrison said. "Until the jury is sequestered, we're up to here [his chin] in gag order."

Earlier in the day, Fuller made his second attempt to expand the jury pool to include a larger minority population, asking Gifford to exclude the entire original pool of 120 prospective jurors. She rejected his motion, just as she had a similar one last week when Fuller tried to use an Indiana University study that purported to show that the accepted system of using voter registration lists for jury selection was prejudicial against minority defendants.

The pool was reduced by at least one, however, when a man showed up in the jury room with a legally registered handgun. Bailiffs reportedly whisked him away even though he was on the original jury pool list.

Throughout the day, Tyson sat in a dark suit behind his team of four attorneys, occasionally passing messages to Fuller.

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