Published February 24, 2014 by Florida Today
A crowd of potential jurors packed the small courtroom at the Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore Justice Center — young, old, men, women, white, black. After two years of waiting, the trial of Brandon Bradley began Monday.
Bradley stands accused of shooting Brevard County Sheriff’s Deputy Barbara Pill in March 2012. Jury selection is complicated, because the case received heavy media attention and involves a possible death penalty. The trial is expected to last five weeks.
Each juror must be questioned individually about prior knowledge of the case and feelings about the death penalty.
Monday morning, Judge Morgan Reinman questioned 53 jurors about what hardships in their lives could prevent them from serving on a jury.
“I realize you are here involuntarily and, perhaps, you would rather be any other place right now,” the judge said. She reminded them of the importance of jury duty. She explained this trial could last until March 28.
“Simply put, we need your help,” she told them.
Several people were excused after the first round of questioning: a diabetic who said she can’t pay attention if her blood sugar is low, three people who said they are attending college, a man who was concerned he’d lose his job at a mom-and-pop restaurant, a man with a family trip to India booked this month.
One woman said she was disabled, but wanted to be on the jury. However, she was dismissed after describing medical issues and a regimen of pain medications.
“The one that wanted to stay,” she said after standing to leave.
A man who said he lived near the Pills was dismissed. So was a woman who said she socialized with police officers and couldn’t be impartial. Bradley sat solemnly, clean-shaven, wearing a black suit, white shirt and black tie.
Previously, Bradley hadn’t been allowed to have a pen. Instead, he used a special tool to take notes. One of his attorneys, Michael Pirolo, described it as similar to the plastic ink tube inside a ballpoint pen. But Pirolo argued in court that this would suggest to jurors Bradley is a danger to his attorneys and couldn’t be trusted with a pen. Judge Reinman stopped Pirolo as he was arguing to say that she’d allow Bradley to have a normal pen, but without a cap.
Bradley wore a concealed belt that could shock him if triggered. A deputy in the back of the audience held the remote. Twenty-three of the 53 jurors called were dismissed. The judge and attorneys completed individual questioning of nine people.
Several times, Assistant State Attorney Tom Brown asked jurors whether they knew that the media can get things wrong. He asked if jurors could set aside what they had already heard. He asked whether a juror could recommend a death sentence. One woman said she’d struggle looking at gruesome photos. Brown said the trial won’t be “PG.”
Defense Attorney Randy Moore stressed to jurors that they weren’t talking about the death penalty in an abstract way, but specifically discussing death for Bradley, a man seated at the table across the room. He probed whether jurors belonged to a church. If they did, he asked if that would affect their feelings on the death penalty. He asked if they would consider testimony from psychologists and how they felt about people with drug addictions.
Overall, the process moved slowly. The court needs to assemble a jury of 15 people, including three alternates.
“To tell you the truth,” the judge said in court, “I wasn’t expecting it would take this long.”
Two people were dismissed after being questioned individually. One was a young man who said he could never consider recommending the death penalty. Another was a middle-age woman who thought Bradley was guilty.
“I believe he assassinated a cop,” she said, explaining that she can’t set aside her feelings.
“I’ve already formed an opinion, and I’m very stubborn.”