OTTAWA — Hampered by the social distancing complications necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, jury selection in the trial of Kenneth Richey was a slow process Monday morning in Putnam County Common Pleas Court.
Prospective jurors were split into two groups — approximately two dozen residents, all wearing facial coverings and seated 6 feet apart, were seated in the courtroom; a similar group was in a separate room on the first floor of the courthouse watching the proceedings on a closed-circuit TV feed and waiting to see if they would be pressed into service. They weren’t.
Judge Dale Crawford, a retired Franklin County jurist appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court to preside of the case, acknowledged to the prospective jurors that Richey’s litany of legal problems and court appearances in Putnam County are well documented. He said pre-trial publicity — including a pair of front-page stories over the weekend in The Lima News — caused him some “concern.”
Several hands were raised when the judge asked how many members of the jury pool had some knowledge of the case against Richey.
“This does not mean you cannot be a fair and impartial juror,” the judge said. No jurors were dismissed due to the extensive media coverage.
Special prosecutor Assistant Ohio Attorney General Micah Ault and Public Defender Greg Meyers spent the remainder of Monday morning presenting scenarios of possible testimony jurors will hear during the trial in an attempt to find what each believed to be the 12 jurors and two alternates which would best serve their particular interests.
By noon the jury was seated, and testimony in the trial began following a lunch break.
Testimony is to resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday, and jurors are expected to begin deliberations Wednesday, the judge said.