STANARDSVILLE – Judge Daniel Bouton impaneled a jury of eight men and four women with two alternates Tuesday in the triple-murder trial of Taybronne Altereik White.
White, 28, faces three counts of first-degree murder in the May 2011 shooting deaths of three Charlottesville residents in Greene County.
Of the 79 people called to the courthouse, only one was African-American.
Bouton denied a defense motion late in the day to move the trial to another county. Defense attorney Michael Hemenway reiterated the motion after jury selection.
“They called 79 individuals with one African-American. That’s not proper representation,” Hemenway told the court.
Bouton said he believed a fair trial was possible within Greene County, citing a ruling he made in May. Bouton cited a presumption against moving trials in the May ruling.
The judge agreed to strike some jurors who had close relationships with local authorities, had read or heard extensively about the case, or who had ailments that would prevent them from focusing on the case.
Hemenway focused his questions of potential jurors on their relationships with authority figures, ranging from Greene County sheriff’s deputies to military personnel.
Some of the potential jurors who were excused said they worked at the Army National Ground Intelligence Center in some capacity, including Daniel Morris, executive director of the center.
Three people were excused early in the day after they said they had an opinion about White’s guilt or innocence after reading or hearing about the case.
The court excused Peter Edwards after he showed some hesitation about whether he would consider all the evidence in the case tainted after Shifflett stole some of it.
“If evidence is presented that has some doubt as to its credibility, it seems difficult to admit that evidence as truth,” he said. “I guess I would have concerns in my mind that it would taint the whole.”
Edwards also told the court he thought he could be fair and impartial.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Ron Morris moved to keep Edwards in consideration.
“His responses were thoughtful, we understand counsel’s concerns, but his response was he could be fair and impartial,” Morris told the court.
Bouton excused another juror who said she had served on the rescue squad with a Greene County deputy and a rescue squad member who were on a list of potential witnesses.
In an interview Tuesday, Alonzo Cutchin, White’s father, said the jury selection process will prevent his son from getting a fair trial.
“I have a problem with the jury selected because the law tells us that we are supposed to be tried by a jury of our peers,” he said.
Hemenway also grilled jurors on whether they could remain impartial if presented with evidence that had been tampered with.
Greene evidence technician James Shifflett was ousted last September after pleading guilty to stealing money from evidence bags, some of which was tied to White’s case.
Bouton denied a defense motion to dismiss the case based on Shifflett’s actions late in the day.
White’s father took issue with the evidence ruling.
“You mean police can tamper with evidence, can steal evidence, and it looks like that’s OK in Greene County,” Cutchin said. “Where’s the civil rights activists, where’s the NAACP, where’s the American Civil Liberties Union … It’s 2013.”
White is accused in the shooting deaths of Brian Robert Daniels, 26, Dustin Tyler Knighton, 25, and Lisa Hwang, 26, whose bodies were found on Octonia Road on May 3, 2011.
White’s trial, which is expected to last two weeks, continues this morning.