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Media blocked from jury selection during Sheriff Blakely’s trial

No journalists were allowed to cover the first day of jury selection, we are told this is at the judge’s request.
Published: Jul. 12, 2021 at 8:36 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 12, 2021 at 8:37 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely’s criminal trial is underway. Blakely is the longest-serving sheriff in the state, he’s facing multiple theft and ethics charges.

No journalists were allowed to cover the first day of jury selection. We are told this is at the judge’s request. We also know there has been no order filed to prevent us from covering jury selection, a process that is usually open to the media.

As journalists, we have a constitutional right to cover every aspect of this trial for you. This case is even more important because it involves an elected official and allegations that surround taxpayer money.

The WAFF legal team has been contacted, who submitted a written request for us to have access to jury selection. The request cites an Alabama Supreme Court decision that affirms our right to be inside the courtroom for this process.

Our attorneys have yet to hear back. As Limestone County Sheriff, Blakely is a public official. He faces 11 criminal theft and ethics charges, 10 of those are felonies.

Prosecutors say Blakely misused campaign funds, used sheriff’s office funds to take loans, and solicited money from his employees. Blakely has pleaded not guilty.

Attorneys will select the jury from a pool of about 500 people. Local attorney Michael Sizemore says the jury pool is so large because it will be difficult to find people who are not biased. Sizemore says Blakely is very well-known and liked by most people in Limestone County, making jury selection even more complicated.

”The parties would both take their turns trying to figure out if a particular juror is receptive to their theory of the case. So, if you’re the state I’d imagine you’d want to find out if anybody has any warm feelings towards the sheriff or if anybody has a fondness for the sheriff, you would want to find that out. And from the defense side you would want to find out if anybody has any animus towards the sheriff,” said Sizemore.

Sizemore says he predicts the actual trial to last for at least two weeks. We are told jury selection could last the entire first week before opening statements begin.

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