Natrona County Judge Approves Juror Questionnaire For Cercy Trial
Prospective jurors for the sexual assault case of Casper businessman Tony Cercy soon will receive a questionnaire to assist the selection of the jury when his trial begins Feb. 12.
But the pretrial questionnaire comes with stern warnings from Natrona County District Court Judge Daniel Forgey, who approved it after the District Attorney's Office and Cercy's attorneys agreed to the questions.
"Under penalty of perjury, you answers must be truthful," Forgey wrote in a cover letter. "It is very important that you not discuss the questions or your answers with anyone, including family members or other potential jurors."
There are no "right" or "wrong" answers, only complete or incomplete answers, he wrote. "The sole purpose for these questions is to allow us to select the most unbiased jury possible."
The questions work toward a single question, Forgey wrote. "The question is whether you can decide the facts in this case based only on the evidence presented in court, the law as given to you by the Court and your common sense."
Potential jurors will return the questionnaires to the court by the end of January. Forgey intends to hold a pretrial conference on Feb. 7.
Cercy is charged with one count of first-degree sexual assault (rape), one count of second-degree sexual assault (intrusion), and one count of sexual contact "without inflicting sexual intrusion and without causing serious bodily injury."
If convicted on all counts, Cercy faces between seven and 85 years of imprisonment.
The case has drawn widespread media and other public attention.
Last week she and agreed with District Attorney Mike Blonigen to have a pool of about 75 jurors, and to reach a compromise on the questions to be asked.
The questionnaire starts by asking jurors for their name, address, age, sex, education, legal training, spouse, children, interests and hobbies.
The questionnaires also ask if they, family members, relatives or close friends have been victims of a crime; if the crime was reported and if formal court action was taken; and whether they themselves were ever charged with a crime and any resulting court action.
The questions then narrow to issues relating to this case:
- Have potential jurors ever been accused of a sexually related offense?
- Do they have any specialized knowledge about sexual assault or abuse?
- Would those answers interfere with their ability to be fair?
- Have they heard, read or seen anything in the media about Cercy?
- Would they be able to set aside what they've heard, read or seen and focus on the evidence?
- Do they have any preconceived opinions about Cercy?
- Have they heard, read or seen anything about any of the charges?
- Have they formed an opinion about whether Cercy is guilty or not?
- Is there any reason why they could not be fair and impartial?
- Are there issues so personal that they would prefer discussing the matter in private with the judge and the attorneys?
The questionnaire ends with a list of court personnel, attorneys, defendants and potential witnesses, and asks potential jurors to identify the people they know.