Guns, racism and Donald Trump were discussed Monday during jury selection for the trial of a Topeka man charged with the 2020 Halloween night shooting of three youths he suspected of stealing Trump signs.
A jury was convened late Monday afternoon to try Robert Sinner Jr., 42, who is charged with three counts of aggravated battery and one count of firing a weapon at an occupied vehicle with great bodily harm.
The trial is expected to last five days, said Brett Watson, Shawnee County District Court Judge, who is presiding over the trial. Opening arguments will be held on Tuesday morning.
Where does Robert Sinner Jr. accused of?
Authorities allege that Sinner fired shots that struck three teenage, Hispanic occupants of a car in North Topeka on late October 31, 2020.
All three injured teens survived. One – driver Jose Garcia, who was 17 at the time – was charged with aggravated assault as a minor. The Shawnee County District Attorney’s Office subsequently dropped that charge.
Sinner said he only fired after Garcia attempted to run over Sinner’s brother, Justin Sinner, then 34.
Court documents said the Sinners suspected the youths were responsible for the previous night’s theft from a neighbor of signs advertising what turned out to be Trump’s failed bid that year for reelection to the presidency.
The property owners involved chose not to prosecute for the theft.
What steps were taken on Monday to come up with a jury?
A pool of more than 60 jurors was present and available for Monday’s proceedings, Watson said.
Thirty-four were randomly selected to be eligible for jury duty.
Ten of them were dismissed and replaced by other potential jurors, six because personal circumstances would have caused them great hardship and four for good reason, because they were not considered capable of being fair and impartial.
Each person who was fired was then replaced by someone else from the pool of potential jurors.
Thirty-four jurors remained when Shawnee County Deputy District Attorney Steven Karrer and Sinner’s attorney Kevin Shepherd finished questioning potential jurors to determine whether they should be removed for good cause.
Twenty were subsequently dismissed with compelling challenges, leaving 14 on the jury. Lawyers use coercive challenges to get proposed jurors removed without having to provide a reason.
The selected jury consists of six men and eight women, all of whom appear to be white.
Two will be alternates, and those will be randomly selected as alternates at the end of the trial, Watson said.
Guns, racism and media stories led to a jury’s dismissal
Seven of the 44 people eligible for jury duty said they had read or watched media reports about the case.
None of them made it to the jury.
One of those seven, a white man, was fired for good reason after admitting that the media reports he had seen made him feel “biased” and unable to make a fair and impartial judgment to fell.
Others who were fired for cause were as follows:
• A black man who gave Trump a score of “1” in terms of how much he loves him gave law enforcement here an effectiveness score of “1” on a scale of 1 to 10, saying that victims of minorities in the US usually get worse treated in courts than white victims. “The Mexican is screwed,” he said. “Especially if it’s an all-white jury.”
• A white woman who said she was “really anti-firearms” and described herself as “maybe the only Democrat in my entire neighborhood.”
• A white man who was fired after coming to the bank to talk privately with Watson about why he felt he couldn’t be fair and impartial. That discussion came at a time during jury selection when jurors were questioned about Trump.
Prospective jurors asked to say how much they loved Donald Trump 1-10
Karrer asked prospective jurors to tell him how much they love Trump on a scale of 1 to 10. Prospective jurors who gave Trump the highest and lowest scores ended up being on the jury less often than the others.
Karrer also asked prospective jurors their thoughts on vigilantes and pranks. He asked if they had ever played a prank or been a victim of one.
A prospective juror, a white man, said friends play pranks on each other.
“It’s no joke if it’s someone you don’t know,” he said.
That man was removed shortly afterwards through a coercive challenge.
Contact Tim Hrenchir at [email protected] or 785-213-5934.
This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Future jurors in Topeka trial questioned about racism and Donald Trump