If you think lawsuits and lawyers are bad for the U. S. economy, you're not likely to be the kind of person James Keener wants on the jury next week when his lawsuit against the Joplin Police Department is heard in U. S. District Court in Springfield.
On the other hand, if you have been picked up for speeding or had any other negative experience with law enforcement, you are not on Joplin Police Officer James Kelly's ideal juror list.
Both sides in the lawsuit filed their juror questions (voir dire) today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
The trial is not great timing for a police department that is still suffering from the fallout of the situation revealed earlier this year when two officers handcuffed and detained an 11-year-old at a Joplin elementary school after that child had allegedly spit on the son of one of the officers off campus.
Keener claims Kelly violated his civil rights during a drunk driving arrest on April 1, 2000, according to court records. After Keener did not pull over for Kelly, and instead went into his driveway, got out of his car, and went into his house, Kelly entered Keener's house "and began assaulting plaintiff," according to the lawsuit.
Keener claims he was sprayed with Mace, injuring his face and eyes and that his door and carpet were damaged, as well as other property. The police have already stipulated that Kelly had no arrest warrant and no search warrant, and in fact, Keener was found not guilty.
Kelly claims any injuries Keener suffered were because of "his drunken condition." You can read more about the issues in the case by going to:
According to the jury questions proposed by Officer Kelly's counsel, potential jurors will be asked if they know Keener or Kelly, Keener's lawyer William Fleischaker, who they will mention prominently as a member of the ACLU, and Kelly's lawyers, Karl W. Blanchard and Peter Edwards.
They will also ask whether jurors know potential witnesses in the case, including Officer Greg Batson, who one year ago today was injured in an explosion in which one officer was killed (that will be mentioned, according to the filing), former Webb City Police Chief Donald Richardson, Sonja Stringert, and Charleen "Linda" Keener, the plaintiff's wife.
Jurors will be asked if they have been involved in lawsuits, been on juries, had any knowledge of Keener's arrest, are familiar with the area of Joplin in which the arrest was made, have law enforcement training or experience, or have any idea of what probable cause is.
One question in particular seems to indicate the approach Kelly's lawyers plan to use. "The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects all free citizens regardless of their background or history for unreasonable search and seizures. Anyone who would not follow an instruction on the law that there are circumstances which justify a police officer in making a warrantless search of one's person or house?"
Potential jurors will be asked if they have ever run from the police, been booked or been subject to "inappropriate police conduct."
Keener's lawyer, Fleischaker, wants to know if potential jurors have worked for the government or have close friends or relatives who have. He will ask, "Do you agree or disagree with the proposition that the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution should serve to limit the power of government and its employees? Why?"