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Jury Selection in Willard Robocall Trial Favors Russ Olson’s Wentworth Neighbors

A group of randomly selected Lake County citizens will troop to the courthouse tomorrow to see if they win a seat on the jury for Daniel Willard's robocall trial, which will treat them to lengthy discourses on South Dakota campaign finance law, the First Amendment, and the conflicts therebetween.

Oh, wait, did I say randomly?

As I understand the process, the state and Willard both get to strike three jurors. That means the first 18 names on the jury list are probably all the further down we need to go to see who's likely to hear the case.

This case is happening in Lake County because resigning Senator Russell Olson is claiming the harm (remember, Olson, calls it terrorism) from Willard's robocalls. Olson lives in the Wentworth ZIP, 57075, as do 892 other Lake County residents. Wentworth/57075 makes up 7.97% of Lake County's 11,200-person population (I'm using 2010 Census data). Those percentages would shift a bit if we were talking just legal adults eligible for jury duty, but let's roll with what we have.

Given those numbers, one would expect a list of 18 people randomly drawn from Lake County to include maybe one or two of Russ's Wentworth neighbors. Do some math, and you discover that there's a 95% chance that an 18-person random sample of Lake County residents should include no more than three Wentworthers.

The first 18 names on the Willard trial jury list include nine people from Wentworth.

Run this experiment one million times, and you should get that many 57075 residents in your jury pool three times.

In an infinite universe, anything can happen. In Lake County, anything includes a jury pool with a highly unlikely geographical bias toward the influential aggrieved party.

Tangentially Related Judicial Trivia: Did you know that it is a Class 2 misdemeanor to ask the sheriff or deputy sheriff to place yourself or anyone else on a jury? See SDCL 16-13-44. Lawyer friends, can you explain to me where that statute came from? And has anyone ever been prosecuted under it?


  1. mike 2013.08.26

    Maybe Willard will run Stace Nelson's campaign from prison?

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.08.26

    ...the prison of his own inaccurate worldview, perhaps, but not likely from any prison the judge can send him to. Do you think the state has a case that even a jury of Russ's neighbors would buy?

  3. mike 2013.08.26

    It's extremely inappropriate for Willard and his gang to have done what they are accused of doing.

    I'd throw the book at them or anyone who went after people like this without disclaiming who or what they are. If they don't pay a steep price what will stop them from doing this again or encouraging someone else to do the same?

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.08.26

    I generally reject anonymity, especially if the law demands identifying disclaimers. I don't get why Willard and friends or anyone else can't put their names to the attacks they lodge against the GOP mainstream. But can the state make the case here?

  5. Garyd 2013.08.26

    I guess I am wondering why someone who is a so called "activist" can do what he is doing yet always seem to keep his picture out of the public eye?

    At least be honest with people!

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.08.26

    Gary, if a ruling against Willard would also mean we would demand similar transparency from political parties and corporations on their activism, I might welcome a guilty verdict.

  7. Douglas Wiken 2013.08.26

    This is especially targeted and vindictive enforcement bordering on harassment under color of authority. It might be one of the first prosecutions for something done a few thousand times in one form or another by Republicans on the right side and by particularly dumb Democrats in SD.

  8. Douglas Wiken 2013.08.26

    As for Sheriff stuff: One of my older neighbors said he was pulled off the street to be on a jury when the pool was not large enough. Sheriffs were supposed to get random victims for jury duty.

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