The trial for fomer Baylor University football player Shawn Oakman could begin February 25 after a judge decided on Friday jury selection will happen this month.
This, after lawyers for Oakman, who is charged with sexual assault for an incident back in April 2016, tried to get the judge to change where the trial is held.
Oakman’s attorney says all the Baylor assault scandals are intertwined and believed that due to all the publicity, his client would not get a fair and impartial trial.
“There are jurors out there who may find they have an agenda to try to correct what they perceive are the wrongs from the Jacob Anderson case,” said Alan Bennett, Attorney for Shawn Oakman.
Bennett presented 19th District Court Judge Ralph Strother with a number of exhibits on Friday showing how he believes social and the news media’s reporting of other Baylor sexual assault cases will impact the trial of Oakman.
“I’ve never see publicity like that in a case here in Mclennan county, I’ve been here for 39 years and I was here when Kenneth mcduff was prosecuted in the DA’s office for capital murder back in the early 90’s and I think the publicity, the negative outcry from Mr Anderson’s case was worse than that even though judge Allen decided to transfer venue to Houston in that case,” said Bennett.
The state argued local or national coverage of the Baylor rape cases are not grounds for changing venue because publicity has not impacted the way potential jurors think.
“Jurors when they come in to serve take an oath to tell the truth but we’ve seen experiences and I’ve seen experiences in my own practice when jurors withhold information because they have an agenda and so that’s just a concern,” said Bennett.
Moving the trial is not off the table, until potential jurors take a questionnaire.
“They’ve already been summoned and they will fill out questionnaires that inquire about their knowledge of the Baylor situation, the Anderson situation, and we will review those, the judge will review those,” said Bennett.
If the court feels the answers are biased, the trial could be moved somewhere else.
“The judge will take it up he will see what those responses are and then he will reconsider,” said Bennett.
Until then, both sides are preparing for trial.
“We will be ready,” said Bennett.
About 500 to 600 people will be summoned for jury selection, they will get their questionnaires February 15th, 10 days before the trial.