Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen made it clear yesterday in responding to defense motions that he was not going to abandon his plan to take over questioning of potential jurors in the retrial of former Little Rock cop Josh Hastings on a manslaughter charge in the death of Bobby Moore, 15.
Judge Griffen made it official today in denying the prosecuting attorney’s motion that he not do all the voir dire questioning himself. Griffen had said yesterday and reiterated today that he’s allowed to do the questioning, including by relaying questions provided by the state and defense.
Griffen again disputed the notion that his warnings about avoiding racial bias in jury selection, in context of remarks he’s made in and out of court and in published articles, presented the appearance that he might not be impartial and thus jeopardize the defendant’s right to a fair trial. He said he had not demonstrated “favoritism or hostility” to either side of the case. He suggested that objections to his decision on jury questioning illustrated its wisdom. He said trial lawyers like to use the jury questioning period to begin to “cast their clients and their positions in a favorable light.” Judges, he said, are duty bound to ensure that jurors are fair and not partial to either party.
The trial, expected to take three weeks, is to begin Sept. 16. Hastings was fired after the shooting, which he said was necessary because Moore was driving a car toward him. Police investigators have said his account of events was untruthful. He police record included past disciplinary problems.