The slow pace of the first degree murder trial for Kenneth H. Botham Jr. took another setback this morning, when one of the members of the temporary jury panel reported ill.
The result was that this morning’s session in Mesa County District Court was devoted almost wholly to a continued quest for a 14th member to round out the first panel to be accepted. It includes 12 jurors and two alternates.
Botham is being tried for the murders, about Aug. 23, 1975, of his wife, Patricia, and her neighbors, Mrs. Linda Miracle, and children, Troy and Chad.
Shortly after noon, and following questioning of three prospective women jurors, one woman was accepted.
Peremptory challenges due
If no other problems develop and that juror is accepted early this afternoon, the defense and prosecution can begin peremptory challenges, in which jurors may be removed without stating a reason.
Each side has 17 peremptory challenges, and other panel members brought in to fill vacancies will be subjected to the same lengthy questioning for cause before they are accepted or rejected.
Meanwhile, midway through the morning hearing, Dep. State Public Defender Lee Foreman moved for a change of venue, on the basis of a Wednesday night article in The Daily Sentinel and an earlier article in The Denver Post.
Foreman objected to a sentence in The Sentinel article which read that the district attorney had charged the public defender’s office with leaking information.
Foreman also quoted the Denver Post article, detailing an interview with a prosecution witness. The Post article was the basis for a Wednesday morning hearing, in which Dist. Atty. Terrance Farina questioned whether there had been a leak.
Foreman told Dist. Judge William Ela that “a lot of time has been spent talking about possible bad effects . . . things tending to disfavor (Botham).”
The public defender said that the impact of The Daily Sentinel story was that it called into question the integrity of the lawyers defending Botham.
“I don’t recall that kind of sentiment (a charge against the public defender’s office) stated by (the district attorney). Nonetheless, it was so reported,” Foreman said. He added that he felt Farina had specifically indicated that neither Foreman or the other public defender in the case, Edward Lipton, was a party to any revelations.
Judge Ela denied the motion for change of venue, noting that members of the jury panel have been instructed not to examine newspapers. He said he has no reason to disbelieve they would follow his instruction.
However, he indicated that he may decide to offer an “oblique question” to the panel as a whole, to find out if they have had any problems on following instructions not to read newspapers or listen to news reports.
Farina told a reporter later that in his questioning about the possibility of a leak he had not been accusing either Foreman or Lipton and that he feels they did not leak information.
After the hearing on the possibility of a leak Wednesday, Truman Haley, the witness who was interviewed, and his wife have both been ordered by the judge not to talk about any information except to defense and prosecution lawyers.
As the morning session ended, Farina noted to Judge Ela that the jury selection process to date has been lengthy.
“I’m going to try to cut that down,” Judge Ela replied.
But Foreman, indicating he thinks such lengthy, intensive questioning is necessary, said: “This isn’t a petty theft case.”
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