Jury picked in Webster trial

Posted: Wednesday, July 09, 2003

A jury of four women and three men was selected Tuesday in Kenai District Court to hear the case of Jeffrey Webster, the Soldotna man accused of dousing peace demonstrators with water earlier this year.

Six jurors will have the task of deciding whether Webster is guilty. One will serve as an alternate.

The trial is scheduled to begin with opening statements this morning in Magistrate David S. Landry's court. Jurors were told to report to the courtroom at 8:30 for instructions.

Webster is charged with two counts of harassment, one count of fourth-degree assault and two counts of interfering with the constitutional rights of demonstrators.

'Basically this case is about who harassed who. I hope to be able to show the jury that this guy here was the target.'

-- Wayne Anthony Ross,

defense attorney

In the charging documents, he is accused of throwing a liquid at the demonstrators on two occasions, on March 24 and April 1. The demonstrators were at the Soldotna "Y" protesting the United States' involvement in Iraq.

Webster's son, Shane, was serving in the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq at the time. Cpl. Webster returned safely to Camp Pendle-ton, Calif., June 12.

About 10 people seated in the courtroom public gallery Tuesday -- including six friends and family members of Webster -- listened for more than four hours as assistant district attorney June Stein and defense attorney Wayne Anthony Ross questioned potential jurors to assure that they had not already formed opinions in the highly publicized case.

"Jury selection is hard, particularly in this case where there's been so much pretrial publicity," Stein said.

Judge Landry also apologized for the lengthy procedure and said, "If there were some way to do this by just passing through a metal detector ... unfortunately there isn't. This is a long, but necessary process."

During the defense attorney's questioning of potential jurors, Ross said, "There's been a lot of publicity and sure, everyone's got an opinion.

"Your job as a juror is not to form an opinion, but to come to a fair and impartial conclusion," he said.

"This is going to be a case about rights ... civil rights," Ross said.

He then posed a rhetorical question asking the jury candidates, "How many people believe they have civil rights as well as civil responsibilities?"

The prosecution said it plans to call 13 witnesses, including the 10 alleged victims of the water-throwing incident, two Soldotna police officers and one Alaska State Trooper.

"I think a substantial amount of (our) case will be based on cross examination of the state's witnesses," Ross said.

"Basically this case is about who harassed who," he said after the jury had been selected and dismissed for the day.

"I hope to be able to show the jury that this guy here was the target," he said, indicating Webster.

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