The Pryor Times

Crimes and courts

October 30, 2012

Jury selection begins in Morrison trial

— Jury selection began in the Johnny Roy Morrison sexual battery case Monday in Mayes County District Court.

Attorneys questioned potential jurors during voir dire. Voir dire is used to determine if any juror is biased and/or cannot deal with the issues fairly, or if there is cause not to allow a juror to serve (knowledge of the facts; acquaintance with parties, witnesses or attorneys; occupation which might lead to bias; prejudice against the death penalty; or previous experiences such as having been sued in a similar case).

Morrison, Pryor, was charged with sexual battery on March 20.

Assistant District Attorney Marny Hill asked jurors to consider if inappropriate touching would produce finger prints.

“Can you believe it happened without them?” Hill polled the potential jurors.

She discussed “reasonable” doubt. She said reasonable doubt does not mean without any doubt.

Hill asked jurors if the shock of hearing personal sexual details would keep them from being good fact-finders.

She said in this scenario, two people were present. There is no video and there are no fingerprints or DNA evidence. “Can you convict on one person’s word?” she said.

Hill asked the jury if they are comfortable setting punishment if a guilty verdict is returned. “There are only five states where the jury gets to decide the punishment,” she said. In other states, a sentencing judge sets the penalty.

Former assistant district attorney Chuck Ramsey is defending Morrison. He began his remarks by reminding the jury the verdict in a criminal case must be unanimous.

He discussed the presumption of innocence. “It is the fundamental principle on which our jury system is based,” Ramsey said. “We don’t start off even,” Ramsey said. “My client has nothing to prove. The state must prove him guilty. We don’t want jurors guessing people into prison.”

Ramsey told the jurors this incident occurred on a Friday, but was not reported until the next Tuesday. He said the state will present no DNA evidence, but ask the jurors to convict on the victim’s testimony.

“Could you send my client to prison on the word of one witness?” Ramsey polled the prospective jurors.

Ramsey summarized the crux of the case as his client allegedly touched a woman’s breast without her consent. He said his client kissed the alleged victim, and when she didn’t resist he took things a step further.

Three jurors were excused and questioning continued.

Hill began by discussing sentencing. She told jurors the recommended sentence would like be zero to five years or zero to 10 years - not five to 10 years. She discussed a range of punishment for the same crime.

Next she polled the new jurors by asking if information not contained in a victim’s statement would mean they were lying?

There was more discussion of what determines “consent” to sexual advances.

Hill suggested a person might be too stunned to react to advances at all.

“It’s basically going to boil down to one person’s word against another,” Ramsey said. “At the end of this case, if you don’t know who to believe; not guilty, right? That’s reasonable doubt isn’t it?”

Ramsey talked about consent again, saying “getting away with a kiss makes it seem OK to go further. It’s implied consent.”

Ramsey reminded the potential jury again that a sexual battery conviction would mean registering as a sex offender.

He asked potential jurors to consider credibility, saying a statement written by the alleged victim weeks later did not mention the touching of her breast.

“You will hear evidence that she went to see an attorney about suing MUB (Morrison’s employer Pryor Municipal Utility Board) before the incident was reported,” Ramsey said.

Jury selection continued Monday afternoon. Trial resumes at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

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