MAYS LANDING - They're going to need a bigger pool.
A judge began making plans Monday for a trial that could include 13 defendants and a pool of about 300 jurors.
Atlantic City Councilman Marty Small and 13 others were indicted in September on various charges alleging that they disenfranchised voters while working on Small's failed mayoral campaign. One man has since pleaded guilty, but the rest have rejected any deals so far, despite a deadline of Monday to do so.
Superior Court Judge James Isman will now give the group until Aug. 16 to decide whether to plead, but also took steps in case they all go to trial.
Those steps included some big numbers.
Thousands of jury notices could be necessary just to find more than 1,000 jurors to answer a questionnaire before dwindling the list to 300.
From that, each defense attorney would be able to reject 10 potential jurors. And the state gets 10 rejections per defendant. That means 260 jurors could be eliminated while picking at least 16 for the trial - 12 jurors and a minimum of four alternates.
"This case puts an almost unmanageable burden upon any county, especially a county of this size," Isman said. "But we will not let anyone disrupt our system or break this system down."
The plan could also require retired Judge Michael Connor to return on recall to take care of drug court and Isman's daily defendant list to clear Isman's calendar for a trial that could last two months.
The schedule would have trial being held five days a week - jury trials in the county usually break on Fridays - and have the lawyers available from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with the jurors sitting from 8:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Isman said.
To allow the jurors to keep the 13 defendants and their various charges straight, Isman said he would allow them to take notes during the trial - a first for him in his time on the bench.
The defendants each has until Aug.16 to decide whether to plead, but "once you've elected to go to trial, you will not be taken off the trial list," Isman warned. "You will go to trial."
Jury selection is set to begin Oct. 4.
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