UPDATE: As a result of this story, the schoolteacher referenced in this story has been dismissed from the jury.
Richard David Smith III is a name familiar to Folio Weekly readers, who saw his byline on almost a weekly basis a few years back. Last week, he came very close to serving on the latest Trial of the Century of the Week — the Michael Dunn retrial that tops our local news every evening. But it didn’t quite happen.
Smith spent three days at the courthouse for jury screening, a process he describes as “very long” and filled with “odd questions” from “too many lawyers trying to be comedians,” making “a lot of jokes about budget cuts.”
Some of those japes came from Angela Corey, who seems intent on improving her public image with this case. Folks on hand were treated to cornball quips like “I might break into song,” a joke she made while being told to hold the mic by the judge.
Many of the questions, Smith says, had to do with “race and gun ownership” — a trend reflected in the composition of the jury, many of whom have guns. It seemed to him — and to me — that the sweet spot in jury selection, those agreeable to prosecution and defense, led to a preponderance of gun owners with children. Given the fact that 10 of the 12 jurors are white, clearly there were factors other than race that came into play.
“I think the defense wanted white males, particularly gun owners,” he says. “I couldn’t quite figure out what the prosecution was looking for other than minorities and/or people with children.”
During the jury selection process, Smith asked for and received a private sidebar. When he divulged that he had written for Folio Weekly in the past, he says, “Angela Corey expressed great sensitivity to things that had been written about her there.” [Editor’s note: Ha.]
“She said, ‘you know they have written a lot of negative, unfair things about me in that magazine, right?” he says. [Editor’s note: Eye roll.]
Smith, of course, has never written about Angela Corey for Folio Weekly or any other publication so far as I’m aware. “I said it wouldn’t affect my impartiality,” he says, adding that “the fact that I brought it to the attention of the court voluntarily should have said something to her.”
An interesting side note, according to Smith: “A 400-pound white schoolteacher who was sitting by me really hated [Corey’s] humor, and made the joke that ‘she would have a hard time proving to a court that I am fat; there would still be reasonable doubt.’” That guy made it onto the jury, Smith says.
Smith also has doubts about the prosecution: “The bigger question to me is, ‘Is the prosecution competent enough to prove the case?’” He also believes he would have made a solid juror, even though his impression of Michael Dunn himself was that of a “stoic monster with a permanent frown carved into his face, like a reverse Joker.”
“If you think about it,” he says, “I would have been an ideal juror for this case. I am white, my wife is black, and our two sons are mixed. I am pro-Second Amendment. As a journalist, by trade I am objective. I am a stern believer in presumed innocence, agreeing with Benjamin Franklin’s statement that it is better 100 guilty persons should escape than that one innocent person should suffer. The crime took place within walking distance to my house. Basically, I was the perfect ‘peer’ in this case, yet was not selected. What does that tell you about the judicial system in Florida?”