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Public Notices

April 21, 2014

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Opening Statements Today
In Ethan Self Murder Trial

Sun file photo by Ken Little

Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood is the Presiding Special Judge in the first-degree murder trial of Ethan Self.

Originally published: 2013-08-13 11:02:11
Last modified: 2013-08-13 15:31:08
 


Jury Of 7 Women,

5 Men Seated Mon.

In Hawkins County

BY KEN LITTLE

STAFF WRITER

ROGERSVILLE -- Opening statements by the prosecution and defense were expected today in the trial of Ethan A. Self, charged in the shooting death of his police officer father more than three years ago in Greeneville.

Jury selection was completed about 6 p.m. Monday in a courtroom at the Hawkins County Justice Center, where the trial will be held.

The seven-woman, five-man jury is composed of Hawkins County residents.

Self, 21, is charged with first-degree murder. The jury will also be able to consider lesser-included offenses, including second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Roger Self, 46, was a Greeneville Police Department dispatch sergeant. He died of a gunshot wound to the head on March 24, 2010.

Ethan Self, 18 at the time, was charged in connection with the shooting the day after his father's body was found in the bedroom of their Love Street home.

Prospective jurors, from two panels of about 100 each, were asked a series of exacting questions Monday by the defense and prosecutors.

Their lines of questioning gave a clue as to the possible strategies the defense and prosecution will use during the trial, which is expected to last two to three weeks.

WHY IN HAWKINS COUNTY?

Presiding Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood approved a defense motion in May for a change of venue.

A courtroom in Hawkins County was available, prompting the decision to hold the trial in Rogersville and select a jury from Hawkins County residents.

Circuit Court Judge John F. Dugger Jr. earlier approved a motion to pick a jury from another county after lead defense lawyer John T. Milburn Rogers maintained that the volume of publicity the case has received would make it difficult for Self to get a fair trial in Greene County.

Dugger unexpectedly recused himself from the case in April.

Self's defense team includes Rogers, Knoxville trial lawyer Herbert S. Moncier and Jenny Coques Rogers, who is John Rogers' daughter.

Special prosecutor Tony Clark is District Attorney General of the First Judicial District, which includes Washington County.

He is assisted by Assistant District Attorney General Dennis Brooks, of the First Judicial District, and Detective Sgt. Mike Fincher, of the Greene County Sheriff's Department.

PRIOR KNOWLEDGE

Members of the Hawkins County jury pool were asked if they had heard about the case.

Those who said they had heard about it were asked how they knew about it, and if what they had learned had already influenced their opinion of Self's guilt or innocence.

Prospective jurors were asked about their jobs, if they had ever been a victim of a crime, or if they had served on a jury in the past.

Clark asked potential jurors if they would be able to find Self guilty if the prosecution met its burden of proof.

He said it may take some time for all the necessary evidence to be presented during the trial, "and I don't want you to hold it against ourselves or the defense.

"The person sitting behind me," Clark said in referring to Self, "deserves justice, and so does the state."

HANDGUN QUESTIONS

Those who said they had guns were asked by Rogers and Moncier if they were familiar with the Glock semiautomatic handgun in standard use by many law enforcement agencies, including the Greeneville Police Department.

A Glock was used to kill Roger Self.

Rogers asked some jury pool members if they were familiar with the concepts "of accidental or unintentional shooting."

Rogers asked one knowledgeable gun-owner if the Glock "is a dangerous weapon" in the hands of someone not trained to use it.

"This case involves an unintentional shooting with a Glock, and you will hear more about that if you're chosen and sitting in judgment on this case," Rogers later told potential jurors.

'MENTAL' QUESTION

Prospective jurors were also asked by Rogers if they believed that someone "suffering from a mental disorder might do something they might not normally do."

Moncier asked many of the jury pool another question:

"Would you want a juror sitting on this case that has the same frame of mind as you do now?"

Self, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and blue tie, sat quietly at the defense table during the jury selection process and appeared to avoid eye contact with prospective jurors.

He was reassured several times by Rogers with a pat on the back or arm around his shoulder.

Self remains free on $500,000 bond.

6 ALTERNATES CHOSEN

In an unusual move, six alternates were selected from the jury pool in addition to the 12-person jury.

In most cases, even those involving charges as serious as murder, only two or three alternates are chosen.

Alternates hear the same trial evidence as jurors and would step in if a juror is not able to continue the trial for medical or other reasons.

The prosecution will not seek the death penalty for Self. Instead, life imprisonment will be sought if Self is convicted of the first-degree murder count.

Defense lawyers will not ask for a jury sequestration.

Clark was appointed as a special prosecutor in the Self case after Berkeley Bell, Third Judicial District attorney general, recused himself in 2011.

Blackwood is one of three senior judges appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court to preside over cases requiring a special judge.

 
For more information and stories, see The Greeneville Sun.

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