Northwood murder suspect questions jury selection process

Published 1:16 pm Monday, May 11, 2015

By Peggy Senzarino, Mason City Globe Gazette

FORT DODGE, Iowa — A employee from the Webster County Clerk of Court’s office testified Monday morning about how potential jurors are selected for criminal trials in Iowa.

Tyrone Washington

Tyrone Washington

A hearing is being held in district court in Fort Dodge challenging the list of approximately 225 potential jurors selected for the Tyrone Washington Jr. trial.

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Washington is charged with first-degree murder in the 2013 stabbing death of Justina Smith of Northwood. Smith, 30, was found fatally injured in a Northwood park.

Defense attorney Charles Kenville is challenging the racial makeup of the potential jury pool claiming it under represents the percentage of African Americans living in Webster County.

Washington is African American. The trial was moved out of Worth County on a change of venue out of concerns about the lack of African Americans living in Worth County.

Sue Minikas, who oversees the jury process in Webster County, said the names are drawn by computer from a master list in Des Moines. She testified the only way to know the race of a potential juror is if they choose to check a box on e jury questionnaire. They can leave the box blank if they choose.

District Judge Colleen Weiland has said she will take the afternoon to weigh the evidence and issue a ruling.

If she denies the motion, jury selection will begin Tuesday.