- Last Updated on 10:42 AM 01/06/10
- BY MATT TOMSIC/DANVILLE REGISTER & BEE
The prosecution and defense had picked the jury for the Dennis Lee Daniel capital murder case Tuesday afternoon in Pittsylvania County Circuit Court.
Daniel is facing charges of capital murder, abduction, robbery and carjacking in the December kidnapping and death of Courtney Marie Servais. Servais went missing Dec. 19 and was found Dec. 24.
Twenty-six jurors qualified by 3:35 p.m., and presiding Judge Charles J. Strauss brought the 26 back out into the courtroom Tuesday afternoon, while attorneys struck 12 of them.
The prosecution and defense both had six jurors that they removed from the jury.
After the strikes, 14 were left including two alternates who will hear the trial of a 43-year-old man charged with capital murder.
Daniel faces life in prison or the death penalty if found guilty of capital murder. In Virginia, prosecutors can pursue the death penalty if the defendant is charged with first-degree murder plus another serious felony, in this case, robbery.
Strauss brought potential jurors into the courtroom in groups of 15. He asked them general questions before sending them back to the jury room. Then groups of three potential jurors were brought back to answer questions from the prosecution and defense.
David Grimes, commonwealth’s attorney for Pittsylvania County, is prosecuting the case. Daniel is represented by four attorneys from the Virginia’s Office of the Capital Defender in Christiansburg: Will Lindsey, Jay Finch, Steve Milani and Roger Dalton. A local attorney, David Furrow, is also representing Daniel.
Judge Strauss asked the first group of 15 potential jurors a series of questions, including if they had a pending case before the court; if they are legal U.S. citizens; if they knew Daniel, Servais or their families; if they had any bias against the commonwealth’s attorney or defense attorneys; and if they understood that Daniel would not be required to testify and that they couldn’t hold that against him, among other questions.
The prosecution and defense focused their questions on the potential jurors’ attitudes toward the death penalty and witnesses’ credibility.
Strauss told attorneys that they should question jurors to determine whether the jurors would automatically choose the death penalty or life without parole if they find Daniel guilty of capital murder. If jurors aren’t able to consider both options, then they are disqualified from jury duty, Strauss said during proceedings.
“For the purpose of my questions, there aren’t any right answers,” Grimes told the jurors. “There aren’t any wrong answers. The only answer that would be a problem is an answer you don’t give us.”
Grimes asked jurors if they had philosophical or religious objections to sitting in judgment of someone or sentencing someone to death.
Defense attorneys asked whether jurors were for or against the death penalty and if those beliefs would push them in either direction, regardless of the trial’s facts.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following story is reprinted with permission from the Register and Bee.)