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January 24, 2008
Jury selection begins in former Lincoln official's trial
PROVIDENCE -- Jury selection for former Lincoln town administrator Jonathan F. Oster’s bribery and conspiracy trial finished its first full day today, when eight potential jurors were excused as both sides sought to agree on a 12-member/two alternate jury.
Two dozen prospective jurors were interviewed during today’s proceedings, and the process is expected to resume tomorrow morning.
Superior Court Associate Justice Gilbert V. Indeglia also released a pre-trial evidence ruling that said the state could a series of conversations between ex-Planning Board member Robert R. Picerno and others as it tries to make its case against Oster.
The state had asked that the conversations be admitted under a rule of evidence that permits statements that might otherwise be banned under the rules against hearsay.
Indeglia ruled that the conversations that occurred before Picerno’s arrest on Feb. 15, 2002 could be used by the state as evidence of a possible bribery conspiracy. But, under that same hearsay exception rule, he excluded and conversations that took place after Feb.15, reasoning that after the arrest, any possible conspiracy between Picerno and Oster would have been over.
Indeglia’s ruling noted his ruling was based on “proffers” of evidence by both sides, not actual sworn testimony in the case, and that he was reserving the right to reconsider the ruling during trial, “should the evidence presented to the jury differ substantially from what has been proffered.”
The jury selection questioning provided a glimpse into the minds of both sides in the case. Besides general questions about their ability to presume a defendant innocent and whether his not testifying in a trial would affect their verdict, potential jurors were asked about their opinion of hidden microphone evidence and how much credibility they would give to a witness who had made a deal with prosecutors to accept a lesser charge in exchange for this testimony.
Oster is facing two counts of bribery and two counts of conspiracy dating back to his 2000-2002 tenure in office. The case was delayed for several years while pre-trial disputes over evidence, some of it gathered for the first time under the state’s wiretapping laws, were appealed to the state Supreme Court.
-- Journal staff writer John Hill
Posted by Mike McKinney at 5:40 PM | Permalink
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