BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — If day one of jury selection is any indication, it could be hard for Jeffrey Basil’s lawyers to find a fair and impartial jury.
It’s been almost eight months since Air National Guardsman Bill Sager suffered fatal head injuries landing at the bottom of a staircase inside Molly’s Pub. It’ll be up to a jury of twelve to decide whether bar manager Jeffrey Basil intended to kill him by pushing him down the staircase.
On this first day, in a pool of seventy potential jurors, almost all admitted they have seen some news coverage of the case. When asked if they could put aside whatever opinions they already had, 31 said they could not guarantee they would be fair and impartial.
‘What is unusual is that that many… almost half the pool would say that they can’t be fair” said News Four legal analyst Terrence Connors.
Connors says it’s still better for the defense to find this out early, “because the worst thing would be if a juror doesn’t come forward and say ‘I’m troubled by what I’ve read in the paper or what I’ve heard on the news’ because that would be something they would hold inside of them while the case is pending.”
On Tuesday, the remaining 39 will be questioned more in depth. Attorneys will then be able to eliminate some based on their answers, and more potential jurors will be brought in.
“I’ve seen jury pools swell as high as two or three hundred before a jury was actually selected” said Connors. “And if they continue along this line, and so many jurors, such a high percentage continue to tell them they can’t be fair, there’s likely to be a motion to change the venue that will follow.”
None of the attorneys have asked that the trial be moved out of Erie County. It’s too early for State Supreme Court Justice Penny Wolfgang to even consider until the attorneys have spent a few more days trying to pick a jury of twelve.
Day two of jury selection begins at 10AM Tuesday.