Prospective jurors in Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s domestic violence trial are being asked to spell out their opinions about domestic violence, their knowledge of the highly publicized case and whether a top law enforcement official accused of a crime should be held to a higher standard.
A jury pool of about 200 was convened Wednesday afternoon and given a nine-page questionnaire to fill out by trial Judge Garrett Wong. The judge also told the group not to do any research on the case, warning that he had in the past fined jurors $1,000 for disobeying a court order.
The questionnaire, which has been agreed to by both the prosecution and the defense, asks jurors about past experience with law enforcement, domestic violence and child custody issues.
Other questions deal with why a domestic violence victim might be reluctant to call or cooperate with police. Attorneys also want to know if jurors believe Mirkarimi should resign as sheriff, or have already formed opinions about his guilt or innocence based on the charges or his political career.
“Should Ross Mirkarimi be held to the same standard as an ordinary citizen charged with the same crime?” another question asks.
At least one prospective juror probably won’t make the cut.
Supervisor Eric Mar, Mirkarimi’s former colleague on the Board of Supervisors, was called to jury duty on the case Wednesday, but his office said Mar “expects to be conflicted out.”
“It would probably be rather odd if he wasn’t,” said Mar’s legislative aide Nick Pagoulatos.
Mirkarimi, 50, is facing misdemeanor charges of domestic violence battery, child endangerment and dissuading a witness for a New Year’s Eve incident in which the former city supervisor allegedly grabbed and bruised his wife’s arm during an argument, while the couple’s 2-year-old son was present.
His wife had reportedly confided in a neighbor that the couple was having problems and she worried about losing custody of the boy.
It was strike two in court Wednesday for Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and wife Eliana Lopez, as a judge again refused to bar video and oral statements Lopez made to a neighbor after an alleged misdemeanor domestic violence incident for which the sheriff is on trial.
On Wednesday, Judge Garrett Wong denied a motion by Lopez’s attorney Paula Canny to exclude the statements and video because of confidential attorney-client privilege. The neighbor, Ivory Madison, reportedly has a law degree, but doesn’t currently practice law. Prosecutors have called her a close friend of Lopez.
The evidence is crucial for prosecutors, because Lopez has publicly denied there was any abuse and may refuse to testify.
Even if Lopez had attorney-client privilege, Wong said, “the evidence is not being used against her” in Mirkarimi’s criminal case, and she lacks the legal standing to suppress the statements. Wong added he was “not persuaded” that there actually was an attorney-client privilege between Lopez and Madison.
Outside court, Canny called the decision “really unfortunate.” Canny said she would challenge the ruling in a higher court.
On Monday, Wong ruled the evidence was admissible at trial because they were spontaneous, excited statements — an exception in the hearsay law — even though they were made nearly 20 hours after the alleged crime.
— Ari Burack