January 22, 2013

Can Kennebunk prostitution suspects get fair trial?

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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With jury selection set to start Tuesday in the trial of Mark Strong – a key defendant in the Kennebunk prostitution case – lawyers will soon find out whether the intense media coverage will affect the court's ability to seat an impartial jury.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

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Defense attorney Dan Lilley (left) and his client, Mark Strong Sr., speak to the media outside of Cumberland County Court following a hearing Friday, Jan. 18, 2013.

John Ewing / Staff Photographer

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He said it would "very unusual" if the venue had to be changed. "I think the general rule is, the judge will try to seat a jury," he said.

Ralph Lancaster Jr., who was first admitted to the Maine bar in 1955 and has seen many juries selected over the years, said the process always depends directly on the question-and-answer session involving the potential jurors, the judge and the attorneys.

Lancaster, of the Portland firm Pierce Atwood, said lawyers submit the language of the questions, and the judge typically decides which questions to ask. The lawyers may raise challenges based on the potential jurors' answers.

"It depends on two things," Lancaster said. "It depends on the ability of the judge. And it depends on the honesty and openness of the jurors. Because there has been a lot of attention in this case, there is a concern that the jury pool may have been tainted."

Paul Aranson, a former Cumberland County district attorney who is now a defense attorney representing one of Wright's alleged customers, said he doesn't know anyone who hasn't heard of the case, and the prosecution is partially to blame.

Kennebunk police and prosecutors chose to announce new charges in the case in waves. Strong was charged first, then Wright, followed by group after group of alleged "johns."

"The way the state has proceeded in his case, every week they have names of more people, has kept it percolating," Aranson said.

"They may find as they go down the list of the individual people that they are not able to find an impartial jury," he said. "The judge can always change her mind if it's decided that people can't be fair and impartial."

Strong's trial is expected to last as long as three weeks. Prosecutors have filed a witness list with 57 names, including 18 men who have pleaded guilty or been found guilty of engaging Wright for prostitution. Wright is not on the list.

Lilley has yet to submit a witness list.

Staff Writer Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:

sdolan@pressherald.com

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Alexis Wright

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

  


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