A hearing Wednesday at the Limestone County Courthouse ironed out juror logistics ahead of the March 9 start of Sheriff Mike Blakely's criminal trial.
Attorneys for the prosecution and defense met with presiding Judge Pride Tompkins in Limestone County Circuit Judge Robert Baker's chambers. The meeting was held to discuss how the Limestone County Courthouse will accommodate hundreds of prospective jurors.
At least 500 summonses were mailed to county residents, but the largest courtroom holds only 100 people. The lack of space prompted both sides to work toward a solution.
Following the meeting, Blakely defense attorney Marcus Helstowski of Huntsville-based McDaniel and McDaniel LLC, said the jury pool would report to the courthouse March 9, the first day of the trial. However, the jury will be struck at an Athens City Schools facility after school hours.
Helstowski offered no additional details, but said his main concern was to ensure Blakely receives a fair trial.
Athens City Schools Superintendent Trey Holladay said the location of where the jury would be struck has not been determined, but he explained there are a number of facilities that would be large enough to accommodate a crowd.
Circuit Clerk Brad Curnutt, who summons prospective jurors, said about 200 summonses are mailed in a typical criminal case. On Wednesday, he said about 40 percent of those residents might be required to be at the courthouse. If the same percentages apply in the Blakely case, the number of potential jurors at the courthouse on March 9 should be closer to 200 as opposed to 500.
Each summons was accompanied by a questionnaire that has to be returned to the circuit clerk's office by Feb. 14. The questionnaires will then be passed to the attorneys for review.
Blakely, who was first elected to the sheriff's post in 1982, was indicted by a Limestone County grand jury in August 2019. He pleaded not guilty to the state's 13-count indictment at his November arraignment.
Of the 13 counts against Blakely, 12 are felonies and one is a misdemeanor. The charges stem from an investigation conducted by the Alabama Attorney General's Office and the FBI.