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Published: Thursday, 10/12/2006

Defense finds a few 'dream' picks on 2nd day of Noe jury selection

BY MIKE WILKINSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Defense attorney John Mitchell, above, questions a potential juror in Tom Noe's criminal trial. Defense attorney John Mitchell, above, questions a potential juror in Tom Noe's criminal trial.
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They are blank slates so devoid of information about the Tom Noe criminal case that, in the eyes of Noe's defense attorneys, they are positively dreamy.

Despite the overwhelming publicity given to the Noe case in The Blade, on local television, and beyond, several people walked into Judge Thomas Osowik's courtroom yesterday and professed they knew next to nothing about Noe or the charges against him.

"I know nothing about this case except what you said yesterday," one young woman told the judge, who had given a general outline of the case to jurors. She said she rarely reads a newspaper or watches television.

Defense attorney John Mitchell was impressed, saying the evidence she heard would create her first impression of Noe.

"Oh, boy, that's a dream juror," he told her.

Judge Thomas Osowik, left, of Lucas County Common Pleas Court, is seeking 12 'fair and impartial' jurors and four alternates for the case, which resumes today.
Judge Thomas Osowik, left, of Lucas County Common Pleas Court, is seeking 12 'fair and impartial' jurors and four alternates for the case, which resumes today.
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Another woman said she, too, knew nothing about the case. "I don't really care what's going on. Isn't that sad?"

Mr. Mitchell didn't think so.

"I'm glad you don't know anything about the case," he said.

The court is trying to find 12 "fair and impartial" jurors, plus four alternates, to hear the case against Noe, who faces 45 felony counts stemming from accusations that he stole more than $2 million from the $50 million in rare-coin funds he managed on behalf of the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation.

Most other jury candidates expressed some knowledge of the case, and some expressed doubt about Noe's innocence. Those who said they knew nothing about the case were in a very small minority.

A number of them said they had read about it in The Blade or watched reports on TV - but all said they didn't believe everything in the paper or on television. And many said they simply tired of the story.

Another young candidate said she only knew about Noe through the overheard conversations of others. When Assistant Prosecutor Jeff Lingo asked if she had formed an opinion, she answered: "I don't even know who he is."

The judge, prosecutors, and defense attorneys spent a second day considering potential jurors and 49 of 72 were excused yesterday. Combined with Tuesday's session, 35 prospective jurors remain in the pool.

They will be brought back to the Lucas County Courthouse this afternoon for additional questioning. Prosecutors and defense attorneys will then be allowed to excuse four jurors each and two alternates.

After excusing 16 of 28 potential jurors Tuesday, Judge Osowik excused 49 of the 72 jurors under consideration yesterday. The excuses ranged from bias against Noe to questions about the trial's impact on their jobs and family.

Among the prospective jurors remaining was a woman whose son was coached by Noe in middle school. She said she once picked up sporting tickets at Noe's former business, Vintage Coins and Collectibles.

However, she said she could be "fair and impartial," the key answer to Judge Osowik's questions. "I think I'd be a good juror," she said.

The theme of the morning session, however, was the damage a long trial could have on prospective jurors.

One man said his absence from his medical sales job would seriously hurt him financially. "If I'm not out working the territory, I don't get the sales. I don't get paid."

He was excused.

During questions with one potential juror, a local police officer, Mr. Mitchell indicated that Noe may not testify. He asked if the potential juror knew he had a right not to testify. She said she did know; she remains in the pool.

Throughout the process so far, a number of prospective jurors have talked about civic duty, presuming innocence, and being honored to serve.

One gentleman, however, eliminated himself solely on one statement. In response to a written question about what the man knew of the Noe case, he answered with his own question: "Why isn't he in jail already?" Judge Osowik excused him.

If jury selection is completed tomorrow, there will be no proceedings on Friday and opening statements in the case will begin Monday as scheduled.

Contact Mike Wilkinson at:

mwilkinson@theblade.com

or 419-724-6104.



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