High Court Rules Public, Media Should Be Allowed into Future Jury Selection Interviews in Prostitution Case

By Koenig, Seth | Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), January 24, 2013 | Go to article overview

High Court Rules Public, Media Should Be Allowed into Future Jury Selection Interviews in Prostitution Case


Koenig, Seth, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME)


ALFRED, Maine -- A legal battle about whether court interviews with potential jurors should be open to the public and media in the high-profile Kennebunk prostitution case went all the way up to the state Supreme Judicial Court on Thursday, bringing the case to a temporary standstill.

In the end, the state's highest court agreed with an appeal filed by attorney Sigmund Schutz, representing the Portland Press Herald and parent company MaineToday Media, that Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills erred by blocking access to questioning of jury candidates.

As a result, remaining interviews with potential jurors -- likely to take place Friday morning -- will be open to the public and press, and transcripts of previously conducted interviews must be "appropriately redacted" and made available to the media.

On trial is Thomaston businessman Mark Strong, 57, who is accused of conspiring with fitness instructor Alexis Wright to run a prostitution business out of her Kennebunk Zumba studio. Both Strong and Wright, who faces her own trial in May, have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Mills had defended her decision to keep the so-called voir dire juror interviews behind closed doors by saying she believed allowing the questioning to take place in public would restrict the attorneys' ability to ask sensitive sexual questions and the potential jurors' ability to answer frankly.

The judge said the sexual nature of the case and explicit evidence likely to be shown make it important to determine whether jury candidates have had sexual experiences that may bias them in the case.

"Probing questions and candid answers are necessary to ensure that the state of Maine and Mark Strong receive a fair and impartial trial," Mills said Wednesday.

But in its ruling, the state's high court said the York County Superior Court did not consider "reasonable alternatives" to closing the jury selection process, and added, "A generalized concern that juror candor might be reduced if voir dire is conducted in public is insufficient . …

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