Jury selection in the first Twin Peaks biker trial will resume Wednesday morning after the parties spent seven hours Tuesday questioning 150 potential jurors.
Jacob Carrizal, the Bandidos Dallas chapter president, is on trial in Waco’s 54th State District Court for his alleged role in the May 2015 shootout at Twin Peaks in Waco that left nine bikers dead and dozens injured.
Judge Matt Johnson recessed the jury panel at about 5 p.m. Tuesday after District Attorney Abel Reyna and his first assistant, Michael Jarrett, and Carrizal’s attorney, Casie Gotro, spent most of the day trying to seat a jury of 12, plus two alternates.
Court officials expect opening statements from attorneys and testimony to start after the jury is seated Wednesday. Prosecutors expect to open testimony with pathologists who performed autopsies on the nine bikers, officials said.
Carrizal, 36, is charged with directing the activities of a criminal street gang and two counts of engaging in organized criminal activity.
The attorneys asked the panel what they know of the case and how much attention they have paid to media coverage. Earlier, Judge Matt Johnson had asked how many believe the media gets it right all the time. No one in the group raised a hand.
Reyna, during his portion of the voir dire examination, told the potential jurors that it was “heartwarming” for him to see that so many don’t believe everything they hear or read in the news media.
“No offense to my friends in the media,” Reyna said.
Reyna went over legal principles with the panel, including the presumption of innocence, a defendant’s right not to testify and the state’s burden of proof in criminal cases.
The judge told the panel earlier that the Legislature does not provide juries with a legal definition for beyond a reasonable doubt. But while there is no definition, Reyna told potential jurors that the state’s burden of proof is not beyond all doubt.
He illustrated his point by showing a picture of a pistol with a dozen puzzle pieces missing.
“Even though you may not have all the pieces, you know what it is,” Reyna said. “That is a good example of what reasonable doubt is.”
During a break Tuesday morning, Gotro raised concerns that the extra security measures initiated by the sheriff’s office around the courthouse and courthouse annex would make the panel members wary for their safety and prejudice them against Carrizal.
The judge said she could address the increased security measures during her voir dire examination.
During Jarrett’s portion of the voir dire, he discussed the elements of the crime and what, in general, the state has to prove to convict Carrizal.
He talked about the definition of directing a criminal street gang, what constitutes a criminal conspiracy, self-defense and the law of parties.
Gotro objected at least five times during the portion in which Jarrett was talking about criminal street gangs, arguing that is a matter the jury will decide.
One panel member defined a criminal street gang as “people who don’t work for a living,” drawing laughter from the group.
Jarrett said a criminal street gang is defined by three or more people having a common identifying sign or symbol or an identifiable leadership who regularly associate in the commission of criminal activities.
Jarrett went row by row asking each prospective juror to rate the most important aspect in the penalty phase of a trial: punishment for punishment’s sake, deterrence or rehabilitation.
A Catholic priest on the panel chose rehabilitation, prompting Jarrett to say he anticipated the father to choose that answer. The majority of the panel chose punishment as the most important aspect of the penalty phase.
Gotro, who started her voir dire examination about 3 p.m., asked the panel to keep open the possibility that the Bandidos are not a criminal street gang.
One man on the panel, a retired Waco police sergeant, told Gotro he would bring a strong law enforcement bias into the jury box.
Gotro brought up the increased courthouse security, including the tents and fencing around the perimeter of the courthouse, and asked panel members how they interpreted it all. One man said he thought the tents in the alley were for portable toilets, while others said it was to keep the jury, attorneys and witnesses safe.
The sheriff’s office blocked off the alley behind the courthouse and set up tents to shield the jury from view as it passes between the buildings.
Gotro asked if a criminal street gang can change, making it no longer a criminal street gang. Many on the panel said they don’t think a gang can change, while others said any group, club or business can change with a positive change of leadership.