2/24/09 – Judge Denies Juror Questionnaires in Alamo Case

February 24, 2009
Associated Press

Judge Denies Questionnaires in Evangelist Case

Little Rock – A federal judge has denied requests to allow potential jurors to fill out questionnaires in a child-sex case against jailed evangelist Tony Alamo. U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes ruled that the typical process of interviewing jurors before trial would be adequate in Alamo’s case. Both federal prosecutors and defense lawyers sought to use questionnaires, as the case involves allegations of child sexual abuse and religion. Alamo, 74, faces a 10-count indictment accusing him of taking young girls across state lines for sex. He faces a May 18th trial.

Both sides requested the written queries, saying it would “minimize juror discomfort” over questions about delicate topics like sex and religion.

In a two-page order dated Friday, Barnes wrote that the typical process of questioning jurors all together before trial would be sufficient in the evangelist’s case.

Acting U.S. Attorney Debbie Groom did not answer a request for comment Tuesday afternoon. In a filing to Barnes, her office wrote that up to 200 residents from the court’s district in western Arkansas could be potential jurors in the case.

John Wesley Hall Jr., the Little Rock lawyer representing Alamo, previously wrote the court that the allegations against his client could “evoke strongly held beliefs by many potential jurors about sexual misconduct.” Alamo faces a 10-count federal indictment accusing him of taking underage girls across state lines for sex.

“Jurors will naturally be reluctant to talk about some of these issues in front of other jurors,” Hall wrote.“Moreover, there is a risk that somebody with strongly held personal views will state something that will prejudice the panel and create an avoidable risk of mistrial.”

Hall did not return a call for comment Tuesday. Arkansas State Police and federal agents raided Alamo’s compound at Fouke on Sept. 20, searching for evidence that children there had been molested or filmed having sex. Five days later, FBI agents arrested the evangelist as he left a hotel in Flagstaff, Ariz.

In: 2009 - (Trial year)

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