TS - Gundersen trial jury selection slated to begin

TS Gundersen trial jury selection slated to begin

Jury selection is slated to start today in former Blue Lake Police Chief David Gundersen's rape trial, and it's expected to be a long, thorough process.

”It would be mind-boggling if it only took two weeks,” District Attorney Paul Gallegos said Friday, adding that he expects the selection process to last about a month.

Gundersen, who was arrested Feb. 8, faces 30 felony charges, including 26 counts of spousal rape with the use of an intoxicant, kidnapping or transporting a second victim with the purpose of rape, attempting to dissuade a victim of a crime, violating a court order and possessing a submachine gun and a pistol with a an attached silencer.

Gundersen pleaded not guilty to all counts and remains held in the Humboldt County jail on $1.25 million bail.

After Gundersen's attorney, Russell Clanton, recently filed a motion seeking a change of venue for the trial, Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Marilyn Miles deferred any decision on the motion until the start of jury selection, but said she would allow Clanton to question jurors for potential bias.

Gallegos said he and Clanton likely will work together to craft a jury questionnaire to pass out in addition to the hardship questionnaire that will be given out to potential jurors because the trial is expected to last longer than a month.
Clanton was not immediately available for comment.

In his motion for a change of venue, Clanton argues that Gundersen's and the alleged victim's stature in the community, the sordid nature of the allegations and the intense media coverage of the case combine to necessitate a change of venue to ensure a fair hearing.

The questionnaires are likely to follow those lines and ask questions about potential jurors' views of law enforcement, their personal history with rape, what newspapers they read, how closely they've followed the case and if they have an opinion as to Gundersen's guilt or innocence.

Responses to the last question likely will hold the key to whether Miles grants the change of venue, according to University of California Hastings School of Law professor David Levine.

”Just because you heard a little bit about (the case) doesn't mean you can't hear the case,” Levine said in a previous interview with the Times-Standard. “The question is, can you put aside what you've heard and judge the case solely on the evidence?”

Gallegos said the first stages of jury selection will likely just consist of streams of potential jurors coming in and filling out the questionnaires, which the prosecution and defense will then pore through to determine if an unbiased jury can be formed.

It's also possible Miles could issue a ruling today on the defense's motion to have some of the charges facing Gundersen dismissed.

After hearing brief arguments on the motion from both sides at a hearing last week, Miles took the matter under submission and said she would issue a ruling before the trial begins. It remains unclear if she intends to file the ruling before the start of jury selection or the start of the actual trial.

Miles may also issue a ruling Monday on the defense's motions to have the charge of transporting or kidnapping a second victim with the purpose of rape tried separately from the spousal rape charges.

In his motion, Clanton argued that the charges are unrelated and that trying them together would strengthen the prosecution's case. In his opposition, Gallegos countered that even if the cases were tried separately, the testimony of both alleged victims would be admissible in both trials according to the California Evidence Code.

November 1999 -- David Gundersen is hired on as the chief of police in Blue Lake.
Feb. 8, 2008 -- Gundersen is arrested on suspicion of raping his spouse, who at the time was a sergeant with the Blue Lake Police Department.
Feb. 12, 2008 -- Gundersen's attorney, Russell Clanton, decries the investigation into his client as a witch hunt, says it stems out of Gundersen's custody dispute with his ex-wife and accuses the state of sticking its nose into Gundersen's bedroom.
Feb. 13, 2008 -- The District Attorney's Office charges Gundersen with 12 counts of spousal rape with the use of an intoxicant, as well as charges of dissuading a witness, violating a court order and possessing a controlled substance without a prescription. He pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Feb. 27, 2008 -- The DA's Office files four new charges against Gundersen, including kidnapping or transporting a second victim for the purpose of rape and possessing a submachine gun and a pistol with an attached silencer.
April 30, 2008 -- Humboldt County Superior Court Judge John Feeney holds Gundersen to stand trial on 19 charges after his preliminary hearing.
May 5, 2008 -- The City of Blue Lake officially terminates its contract with Gundersen as the city's chief of police after a unanimous vote by the City Council.
May 12, 2008 -- Gundersen is re-arraigned on 33 charges, including 30 felonies, after the DA's Office files additional counts
based on information presented in the preliminary hearing. Gundersen pleaded not guilty to all counts.
Today -- Jury selection is scheduled to begin in Gundersen's trial.

Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard
Article Launched: 07/14/2008 01:31:34 AM PDT

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