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No jury yet in trial of former principal

There’s no jury yet in the case of a former Sitka school administrator charged with sexual assault.

Jury selection bogged down today (Mon 5-12-14) when 20 of the first 24 prospective jurors said they knew the defendant, former Blatchley Middle School Principal Joe Robidou.

 

Many said they knew Robidou, as well as the three women teachers in his building he is alleged to have assaulted. Superior Court Judge David George then decided to interview each prospective juror in chambers, with only the attorneys and Robidou present.

The interviews ranged in length from 5 minutes to a half-hour. There were very few dismissals as a result of the interviews.

By 3:15 in the afternoon, the selection process moved to open questioning of the jury pool.

Assistant district attorney Jean Seaton warned that the subject matter would be challenging.

“You have heard that when Judge George read the charges that this is a case involving sexual assault. And those kinds of matters can be really difficult to talk about.”

Seaton went on to ask jurors about their understanding of sexual assault. The questions offered a clue in to the state’s case against Robidou, who is facing 10 counts of assault for non-consensual sexual contact.

Among other things, Seaton asked jurors:

–Would anyone be less likely to consider it sexual assault when it’s someone the victim knows?
–In a case of sexual assault, does it make a difference if there is no sexual penetration?
–How does a person express a lack of consent?
–Does coercion require the use of a weapon?
–Why wouldn’t the victim of a sexual assault immediately call 9-1-1?
–Would it be difficult to report a sexual assault if the perpetrator has high status in the community?
–Have you ever heard a victim blamed for sexual assault? That they brought it on themselves by their clothing or behavior?

Judge George brought the day’s proceedings to a close at 4 PM, and instructed prospective jurors to return to the courtroom the next morning. He reminded them that they were prohibited from discussing the case with anyone, or researching past news reports. “If you are selected for this jury,” said George, “it is important to keep an open mind until you have heard everything.”

The trial — once it gets underway — is expected to last up to a week.

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