MAYS LANDING - Jury selection in the voter-fraud trial centered around Atlantic City Councilman Marty Small's failed 2009 mayoral bid ended its second week Thursday without one juror selected.
About 800 potential jurors have come through Superior Court Judge Raymond Batten's courtroom during the past two weeks, learning the charges against Small and 11 others and getting a look at the 760-person witness list to make sure they would be able to serve impartially. Now, the judge will continue going over the jurors' questionnaires in open court, where the deputy attorneys general representing the state and the six attorneys defending the first half of those charged will get a chance to argue who should be allowed to move forward in the selection process.
Once those decisions are made, those jurors who get to continue to the second round will come in for in-person questioning, when each side gets to dismiss a certain number of potential jurors without cause. Each defense attorney gets as many as 10 dismissals without having to give a reason; the state gets 10 dismissals per defendant for a total of 120 people. The judge can also dismiss people with cause.
Small and 13 others were indicted in September 2009 on charges that they mishandled absentee ballots during the 2009 Democratic primary in Atlantic City. Small wound up losing the election to current Mayor Lorenzo Langford, who is listed as a potential witness in the case. Two people have since pleaded guilty.
Small and 11 others opted to go to trial, rejecting plea offers that could have left some seeing little if any prison time. Citing problems with trying to fit 12 defendants and counsel into one courtroom, a decision was made to separate the group into two trials of six defendants each.
Jury selection will continue next week. The following week, Batten is expected to have a hearing on whether 25 sealed absentee ballots that were rejected by the Board of Elections during the 2009 primary can be opened. The deputy attorneys general at various times have argued that the ballots - which they believe were cast for Small - would help boost the state's case. Originally, the state wanted all 316 rejected ballots unsealed, but Batten ruled against that, saying it would violate the rights of those voters.
The state said it can produce 25 voters who will swear that they either did not cast the ballots that bear their names, or were told how to vote.
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