PORT TOWNSEND — Jury selection for the retrial of Net Nanny case defendant David Lee Sprague begins today under new procedures designed to protect participants from the spread of COVID-19.
Jury summonses were sent out to 160 potential jurors, who will go through the voir-dire questioning and selection process in shifts in the Superior Court courtroom, Superior Court Judge Keith Harper said Friday.
The trial will likely start Wednesday afternoon, he said.
“We have no idea how many jurors are going to feel like they can’t do it or have other excuses or are parts of vulnerable groups,” he said.
If potential jurors do not pass health screenings, they will be available for jury pools in the future.
Decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis for COVID-19-related reasons that potential jurors give, such as not being able to find child care or financial issues, Harper said.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state Supreme Court earlier this year had suspended jury trials until after July 6.
Court officials have used the intervening pause in their calendars to adjust the environment of the Jefferson County Courthouse, which is located at 1820 Jefferson St., to limit the spread of COVID-19, according to a press release sent last Wednesday from court administrators Sophie Nordstorm of Superior Court and Brian Gleason of District Court, as well as Superior Court Clerk Ruth Gordon.
In Sprague’s case, a mistrial was called in February after a jury deliberated for nine hours and could not reach a verdict.
Sprague is being tried on charges of first-degree attempted rape of a child and second-degree attempted rape of a child, both Class A felonies punishable by a maximum of life in prison and/or a $50,000 fine.
Sprague was one of 10 men arrested in the March 2018 Net Nanny operation targeted at child sex predators.
Court documents said Sprague answered a Craigslist ad posted by an undercover State Patrol sergeant and proceeded to engage in email and text messages with an undercover detective.
Jurors will be selected in morning and afternoon shifts of no more than 30 to maintain social distancing, with jurors’ seats separated and the courtroom arranged to limit the number of spectators.
Attorneys and court personnel will wear plastic gloves while handling exhibits and be wearing protective masks.
The bench and clerk area have been fitted with sneeze guards. A disinfecting fogger will be used in the courtroom at regular intervals along with four air purifiers with a heat component that kills viruses on contact, court officials said.
Attorneys will stay safe distances away from witnesses while questioning them. Witnesses and lawyers will be allowed to lower their masks or be allowed to wear clear shields to allow them to speak, Harper said.
Jurors will deliberate in the courtroom, not the jury room, to allow them to stay socially distant.
In the case of inclement weather, potential jurors will be asked to wait in their vehicles and will be called on mobile phones to appear.
Potential jurors will have the opportunity to view an orientation film prior to trial at https://tinyurl.com/PDN-jeffersonjuryduty.
“We are making sure the jurors feel safe and are safe, and we think we have set up a pretty good system,” Harper said.