FORT DODGE | The issue of lack of racial diversity in the jury pool in the first-degree murder trial of a Northwood African-American man was raised again Tuesday.
However, it appears this time the trial of Tyrone Washington Jr., 41, will continue, unlike in May when his first scheduled trial was halted due to a lack of African-Americans on the jury.
Washington is charged in the August 2013 stabbing of his ex-girlfriend, Justina Smith, 30, in Swensrud Park in Northwood.
His trial in May, also held in Webster County on a change of venue from Worth County, was halted when District Judge Colleen Weiland granted a defense motion to dismiss the entire group of prospective jurors due to the lack of African-Americans among them. Defense attorney Charles Kenville argued that lack of diversity hurts his client’s chances of receiving a fair trial.
In May there were no African-Americans in the jury pool. This time four African-Americans returned juror questionnaires and three were among the more than 200 prospective jurors who showed up for jury duty Tuesday morning.
“I think it is still unrepresentative,” Kenville said.
The percentage of the population of Webster County that is African-American is estimated at between 4 and 5 percent. Based on that, a representative sample in a pool of 200 would be 8 to 10 African-Americans.
Kenville made a motion Tuesday to strike the jury pool. Weiland overruled it.
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Kenville told the Globe Gazette that he does not plan to take the motion up again in court.
Jury selection is expected to continue through the better part of the morning on Wednesday, according to Kendall.
The jury pool this time was larger than in May, when 112 prospective jurors showed up.
It was standing-room-only inside the courtroom Tuesday morning, and several potential jurors had to sit or stand in the hallway near the door to the courtroom, which was left open.
Several members of the jury pool who had not completely filled out their juror questionnaires were asked to do so.
In-court questioning of the potential jurors by the attorneys began in the afternoon.
A number of jurors were dismissed. Some were questioned individually in chambers late Tuesday afternoon.