Jimmy Rodgers trial: Jury selection to continue into next week: Day 3

Published: October 3, 2019 7:10 AM EDT
Updated: October 16, 2019 9:16 AM EDT

Potential jurors of a murder trial answered tough questions on the third day of selection in Lee County court Thursday.

A 12-member jury will be tasked with deciding whether accused Jimmy Rodgers is guilty of murdering Dr. Teresa Sievers at her Bonita Springs home four years ago.

Rodgers’ attorney says his client is innocent.

“I want to make it perfectly clear that Mr. Rodgers has maintained his innocence since day one, said.

On the third day of jury selection, the questioning of potential jurors became more personal.

“Do you have any moral, religious or philosophical beliefs that would prevent you from judging another human being for any crime?” asked Cynthia Ross, assistant state attorney, of a potential juror.

Rodger’s defense team still needs to figure out where all the jurors stand on the death penalty. And both the defense and prosecution teams want to know if they are leaders or followers because the decision for the death penalty must be unanimous in Florida.

“Based on your feelings, if Mr. Rodgers was found guilty as charged, would your feelings go right to the death penalty regardless of the aggravators or the mitigators in this case?” Defense Attorney Jay Brizel asked a potential juror.

Attorney Pam Seay, a law professor at FGCU, said some jurors struggle with making a decision and can end up experiencing things like PTSD.

“You’re going to be exposed to things you would never have imagined,” Seay said.

One of the potential jurors became visibly emotion while attorneys for both defense and prosecution were allowed to ask questions. She said the case against Rodgers was very disturbing.

Amid the tears, there were also smiles, as attorneys tried to connect with potential jurors.

“If you do like the attorney, often times it rubs off,” Seay said. “And you will like the defendant as well.”

Seay said when attorneys build a small rapport at this stage, it can make jurors more open and receptive to arguments made by the defense. And defense attorneys know this period is the one time they can leave an impression.

“It’s the only time in the entire trial,” Seay said. “Once the jury is selected, there will be no communication at all.”

Judge Bruce Kyle divided the remaining potential jurors into small groups and asked them to return to court either Friday, Monday or Tuesday. No potential jury members have been selected as of Thursday night.

The tentative start date for Rodgers’ trial is Thursday, Oct. 10. He will be the first of the accused to take the stand for the murder of Dr. Sievers.

Mark Sievers’ attorney also spent time at court Thursday, most likely preparing for his client’s case, which is set to take place as soon as Rodgers’ is done.

2:40 p.m.

The court is questioning a middle-aged, working father of two. He says he is not opposed to the death penalty.

2:13 p.m. 

The court is questioning another retired father. He is not opposed to the death penalty even though he recently moved from another state where the death penalty is not enforced.

No objections from either side on this man.

1:45 p.m. 

Lunch break is over. The court is now questioning a retired father. He says he is not opposed to the death penalty.

No objections from either side on this man.

12:00 p.m.

Here’s the plan: get through 15 people today, 20 people tomorrow, then the remaining will come back Monday and we’ll have a better idea how to move forward. Remember, this is only the second phase of questioning in the search for 12 jurors. Likely to be more questions after this.

A woman became visibly emotional and upset when told to come back another day. She admitted to judge she has anxiety and the nature of this case is “very disturbing to me.” Judge sent her home, she left the courtroom in tears.

11:55 a.m.

We knew this would be a long process. Right now, Judge Kyle is deciding how to break down the remaining potential jurors out of this group of 61. Attorneys have spent about 20-30 minutes on each juror so far. This phase may go into next week Tues.

11:00 a.m.

We’ve been going for almost two hours now, and are officially on the 4th potential juror out of about 60. Of those 4 people, one is a mom, two are dads. Only one has served on a jury before… it was a grand jury in another state.

10:26 a.m. 

The third juror being questioned is a retired father of three. He says he is not opposed to the death penalty.

10:11 a.m. 

The defense wants the second juror to be dismissed based on the fact that the juror originally said she would automatically go for the death penalty if Jimmy Rodgers is found guilty. The judge denied the motion saying the questions were confusing and she cleared up her answer once the judge asked the question in a simpler way. The second juror will move on to round three.

9:45 a.m. 

The first woman questioned for round two will move on to round three of questioning. Both the state and the defense did not object to her. The court just brought in the second middle-aged woman for questioning.

9:20 a.m. 

Some of the questions from Jimmy Rodgers’ attorneys for the first juror still being questioned.

“What are your feelings on the death penalty as one of the two appropriate options for the guilty killer?”

“In your mind, if it was presented that the person was premeditated in their head, should they always get the death penalty?” The juror answered yes.

9:10 a.m. 

The first juror for round two is in the room being questioned. Right off the bat, the middle-aged woman is being asked about her beliefs on the death penalty. Does she have moral beliefs that would prevent her from sentencing Jimmy Rodgers to death if he is found guilty?

8:54 a.m. 

Fifteen jurors will be coming in at a time for round two of questioning. These questions will be more personal. The court is in recess until the first 15 are ready to come in.

8:46 a.m. 

The judge is starting off this morning with the final two jurors they didn’t get to question yesterday from round one. They are asking these jurors what they know about the case, and whether or not they can put what they know aside. So far, the first juror said she would not be able to put the information aside. She was just let go by the judge.

The second juror was just let go.