Sypher attorney wants jury dismissed, case moved - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Sypher attorney wants jury dismissed, case moved

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LOUISVILLE, Ky.  (WDRB Fox 41) -- Karen Sypher's attorney has filed a motion to dismiss the jury picked for his client's extortion trial and to grant a change of venue.

A jury of eight men and eight women was seated Wednesday for her upcoming extortion trial in U.S. District Court in Louisville.  But Sypher's side believes too many potential jurors already had made up their minds about her guilt or innocence, based upon their answers in juror questionnaires. 

Some of those answers were unflattering to Sypher and alleged victim Rick Pitino, the University of Louisville basketball coach.  Others assumed Sypher is guilty as charged.

In the motion, Sypher lawyer James Earhart says, "Sypher realizes that it is not required that the jurors be totally ignorant of the facts and issues involved."  However, he also maintains, "The widespread, pervasive nature of the media reports coupled with the prominence and position of the alleged victim in this case make it impossible to seat a fair and impartial jury in the Louisville Division of the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky."

The motion also calls the extent of publicity in the case "unprecedented," saying, "Each and every court appearance and filing is covered in depth by the media and is most often the lead story and/or front page news." 

Karen Sypher is accused of trying to extort money from University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino, lying to the FBI about it, and retaliating against Pitino for reporting it.

The motion mentions Pitino's fame as a factor that has brought increased coverage to the case:  "...even where jurors claim no bias or opinion due to pretrial publicity, those claims of impartiality may not be believable in light of the pretrial publicity and prominence of the victim and the institution that he represents."

Two-and-a-half days of jury selection ended with eight men and eight women being seated for Sypher's extortion trial.  Two are African-American.  A random draw determined the sixteen jurors after attorneys narrowed a field of 101 to 55, then to 36 potential jurors.

Three people not chosen told Fox 41 News they "wanted" to serve -- and to hear the Sypher case.

One described the nature of individual questions during the process.  "They just wanted to make sure that you could, if you were on the jury, that you could judge fairly and not hold anything against them for the questions that were in there," said Diane Yakovetz, a dismissed potential juror.

Sypher attorney James Earhart said in court Tuesday that he believed 60 percent of the pool members had already formed an opinion on the case, based on their answers to a jury questionnaire.

Some of those answers made Earhart and Sypher wonder if they could get a fair trial in Louisville, even after the judge had said "No" to a change of venue.

In court, Judge Charles Simpson told jurors his "courtroom is your courtroom," and said to them, "You are judges, too."

"I'll judge the law. You will judge the facts," Simpson said.  And finally, he said, "The trial, has in effect, begun."

Opening arguments are not scheduled until July 26th because of Judge Simpson's scheduling conflicts.  It's not known whether the motion filed Thursday might delay the trial.

He told jurors not to talk about, read, watch or listen to anything about the case.

Simpson's admonition was thorough.  He also told jurors not to discuss the case on Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter, Internet chat rooms, blogs, or any other form of social media.

"If you know what those mean, you know what not to do," Simpson said.

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