Judge maintains faith in system, refuses to disqualify pool of jurors

January 15, 1993|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

Saying the process of picking a jury guards against unfair trials, Carroll Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. has denied motions to disqualify the county's January jury pool from two cases scheduled to be heard next week.

One motion was filed Tuesday by Assistant Public Defender Edward T. Barry in Noland Maurice Rheubottom's third trial on drug-dealing charges, which is scheduled to begin Monday.

Mr. Barry filed an identical motion in an unrelated first-degree rape trial that is to begin Thursday.

The motions said all potential jurors "already have a predisposition against innocence" and are unable to render a fair verdict in any case.

Mr. Barry's motions cited how, a week ago in an unrelated case, prosecutors revealed suppressed evidence to jurors after they had acquitted a woman of abusing her 15-year-old foster son.

By disclosing that evidence -- a confession and a personal diary describing activities involving the woman and the boy -- Assistant State's Attorney Barton F. Walker III tainted all potential jurors who might be called to serve on criminal trials this month, the motions said.

"This action impugns on the integrity of the tribunal and tends to influence the jurors' actions in future jury service," the motions said. "It leads a reasonable juror to speculate as to the existence of additional evidence."

The judge, in his opinion filed late Wednesday, discounted that argument.

"This court has confidence in the voir dire procedures and the court's instructions in order to weed out any 'predisposition' against a verdict of not guilty or other bias," Judge Beck wrote.

His opinion also denied Mr. Barry's request for individual questioning of potential jurors, which usually is reserved for capital cases.

Mr. Barry declined to comment on the judge's decision, and Mr. Walker -- who is prosecuting the Rheubottom case -- could not be reached for comment.

Rheubottom, 26, faces multiple drug possession and distribution charges in the current case. He was arrested June 19 when the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force raided his apartment and seized more than half an ounce of cocaine, $4,400, hand-held scales, a telephone pager and other electronic items.

Rheubottom, a twice-convicted cocaine dealer, faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 25 years without parole if he is convicted on the third set of drug charges.

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