quizzed for jury service (Nacchio trial)
By Greg Griffin, Staff Writer
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Have you lost money in a stock-option plan? You probably
wouldn't qualify to sit on the jury that will decide former
Qwest chief executive Joe Nacchio's fate.
That's just one of the questions the court may be asking
prospective jurors as it prepares for the trial set to begin
Summonses and questionnaires were sent out during the past
two weeks to 1,000 randomly selected Coloradans from the
Front Range, central mountains and Eastern Plains, according
to U.S. District Court documents.
Nacchio faces 42 counts of illegal insider trading for
selling $100.8 million in Qwest shares in early 2001,
allegedly based on nonpublic information. Each count
carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. Nacchio has
pleaded not guilty and is free on bond.
The court is looking for as many as 18 jurors and alternates
who can spare seven to eight weeks away from work.
They cannot be current or former employees or stockholders
of Qwest, or have family members, or possibly close friends,
who have been. The same is probably true for those with
ties to U S West, which Qwest bought in 2000.
Those who have a strong bias for or against Nacchio also
will eventually be excluded, as will those who are eager,
for whatever reason, to sit on the Nacchio jury, U.S.
District Judge Edward Nottingham has said.
Potential jurors who say they can't commit to an eight-week
trial or who have other legitimate issues will be excluded.
The questionnaires were sent to screen people out before
calling them in for questioning when the trial begins. The
actual content of the questionnaires hasn't been revealed
publicly. Nottingham has said he believes up to 300 of the
1,000 people receiving summonses could be eligible jurors.
Jury selection at the start of the trial may go quickly. In
the Enron trial, jurors were picked in one day.
Nottingham told attorneys in a closed hearing Jan. 26 that
he's inclined to exclude anyone who has lost money in a
stock-option plan, according to a transcript released
Friday. The likelihood of finding an impartial juror with
that experience is low, he said.
Lead prosecutor Cliff Stricklin argued against disqualifying
potential jurors who own Qwest stock now, or who have lost
money in other investments.
"The question is ... if someone is a victim of Qwest,
clearly they're disqualified to sit on this jury," he said
Nacchio's attorneys are concerned about whether potential
jurors are biased by media coverage of Nacchio.
"All we are striving to do is to get people ... who are
without preconceptions," defense attorney Herbert Stern said
Nottingham has said he would prefer to explore the issue of
prejudice against Nacchio during in-court questioning.
"You could probably find 12 people who don't know anything
about this case," he said in August. "But then the question
is whether you'd want them as jurors."
Nottingham denied a defense motion in August to move the
trial to Nacchio's home state of New Jersey. Defense
attorneys had argued that negative publicity had tainted the
Staff writer Greg
Griffin can be reached at 303-954-1241 or