The jury selection process is expected to take up to two weeks as attorneys question people one-by-one.

More than half of the people questioned Monday about their ability to serve fairly on the jury in the upcoming Michael Miske Jr. trial were ruled out for a variety of reasons, including personal relationships with witnesses, prior experience in law enforcement or experiences as victims or witnesses of crimes.

Nineteen potential jurors were questioned individually by attorneys for the prosecution and the defense. By the end of the day, 11 had been struck and eight were kept in the running. 

Miske, the accused racketeering boss, faces 22 federal counts in a wide-reaching conspiracy case. He appeared in U.S. District Court in Honolulu on Monday alongside his two remaining co-defendants, his half-brother, John Stancil; and Delia Fabro-Miske, who was married to Miske’s late son Caleb. 

Stancil is charged with 11 counts, and Fabro-Miske is charged with two counts of racketeering and two counts of bank fraud.

Jury selection in the federal Miske trial began on Monday and will continue until 44 potential jurors are chosen. Twelve jurors and six alternates will then be selected from that pool. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2024)

One potential juror said he did not think he could be impartial because he witnessed his neighbor be killed by a man who was later found not guilty by reason of insanity. 

“It’s just something that I can never forget, and something that, if there are charges of murder and whatever else, I just don’t think I can be fair,” he said.

Another potential juror was struck because he could not say that he presumed the defendants were innocent until proven guilty.

Others were deemed ineligible to serve on the jury because of personal relationships with people on the witness list, which had more than 1,000 people between the defense and the prosecution.

A judge ruled one potential juror could not be impartial because of his close relationship to a veteran firefighter who may be called as a witness in the case. Another person was deemed ineligible because of his history as a federal law enforcement officer.

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Miske, who was dressed in a crisp, light blue shirt, listened intently to the questioning, at times putting on thick-rimmed glasses to take notes on a legal pad. He occasionally turned to make eye contact with or gesture to people he knew in the gallery. 

Stancil appeared upbeat for parts of the proceeding. On a few occasions he laughed with his lawyer, Walter Rodby, and once threw up a shaka to a potential juror when Rodby introduced him. Fabro-Miske, who was represented by Marcia Morrissey, sat quietly throughout the proceeding.

Potential jurors were asked if they had heard of the case, how much they knew about it and whether they had formed any opinions about the defendants’ guilt or innocence. Many said they had not heard of the case or didn’t know much about it. Those who said they did have prior knowledge were questioned further about where they got their information. 

Defense attorneys moved to strike one potential juror who said he had read about the case, including in multiple articles by Ian Lind in Civil Beat. 

Presiding Judge Derrick Watson overruled the motion and said knowledge of the case did not disqualify someone from serving on the jury. What’s important is that the person can separate what they have learned previously about the case and only take into account what they hear in court when deciding on a verdict, he said. 

Common questions from the prosecution included whether potential jurors watched crime dramas, such as “CSI” and “Law and Order,” and if they understood that the presence of specific types of evidence, like DNA or fingerprints, is not required to prove a charge beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Prosecutors told potential jurors that the body of Johnathan Fraser, whom Miske is accused of conspiring to kidnap and kill, has not been found and asked if they understood that the presence of a body wasn’t required to prove a murder charge. 

Attorneys also asked whether potential jurors had any positive or negative experiences with law enforcement or the criminal justice system and if they understood the charges of racketeering and conspiracy. 

The selection process will continue until 44 prospective jurors are chosen. From that pool, 12 jurors and six alternates will be selected. Twenty more potential jurors are scheduled to be interviewed on Tuesday.

Miske’s attorney, Michael Kennedy, said outside of court after the proceedings that he thought the individual jury selection process was “very fair” but declined to comment further. 

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