BY KEN LITTLE
The trial of Ethan A. Self on first-degree murder charges is not scheduled to begin until Aug. 12, but preliminary screening of potential jurors will be done Friday in Rogersville.
The purpose of the juror evaluation is to excuse anyone who has a valid reason for not being part of the panel that decides the guilt or innocence of Self, who is charged with first-degree murder in the March 2010 shooting death of his father, Greeneville police Sgt. Roger Self.
The jury pool consists of about 400 Hawkins County residents. Jury selection will begin on Aug. 12, the first day of the trial.
The trial could last two to three weeks, according to Senior Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood, who was appointed to preside in the case this spring after Circuit Court Judge John F. Dugger Jr. unexpectedly recused himself.
Judge Blackwood set the jury screening date during a May pretrial hearing.
On Friday, the judge will give potential jurors the opportunity to ask to be excused. Individuals must a have a legitimate reason to do so, court officials said.
Defense lawyers and prosecutors will not be allowed to ask questions of the jury pool on Friday.
In May, Blackwood approved a defense request for a change of venue. The trial, originally scheduled in Greeneville, will now be held in Hawkins County.
Dugger earlier approved a motion by lead defense lawyer John T. Milburn Rogers to pick a jury in another county because of pretrial publicity surrounding the case.
Hamblen County was considered as a possible location for the trial, but the availability of a courtroom at the Hawkins County Justice Center prompted the decision to hold the trial in Rogersville.
Defense lawyers and special prosecutor Tony Clark, district attorney general of the First Judicial District, agreed to the change of venue.
The defense will not ask for a jury sequestration.
Prosecutors will not ask for the death penalty. They seek life imprisonment for Self, 21, who remains free on $500,000 bond.
Rogers, who will be assisted by Knoxville trial lawyer Herbert S. Moncier and Jenny Coques Rogers, may pursue an "accidental shooting" defense, documents filed in the case indicate.
Roger Self, 46, a Greeneville Police Department dispatch sergeant, died of a gunshot wound to the head on March 24, 2010.
Ethan Self, then 18, was charged in connection with the shooting the day after his father's body was found in the bedroom of their Love Street home.
At the pretrial hearing in May, Rogers asked Blackwood to consider "the proposition the defendant cannot receive a fair and impartial trial with a large number of deputy sheriffs and members of the Greeneville Police Department parading in and out of the courtroom while [jury members] are sitting in the courtroom."
Rogers said the presence of so many police officers could influence a jury if the trial was held in Greene County Circuit Court.
At an earlier hearing, Clark said that law enforcement officers will likely turn out in support of Roger Self no matter where the trial is held.
The prosecution has a list of about 50 potential witnesses. It's unclear if Self will take the stand in his own defense during the trial.
Self's trial has been continued three times since 2010. At the pretrial hearing in May, Blackwood emphasized the need for the trial to begin Aug. 12 as scheduled.
Blackwood is one of three senior judges appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court to preside over cases where a special judge is needed.
Berkeley Bell, Third Judicial District attorney general, recused himself from the Self case in 2011.
Clark was appointed as a special prosecutor in the case soon afterward.