By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Jury selection in the Speaker Mike Hubbard felony public corruption trial is complete, with twelve jurors and four alternates. During the three day process, there were hints of possible strategies from the defense that could prove troubling, not for the prosecution, but team Hubbard.
The jury is comprised of nine men and seven women. Five of the men and four of the woman are African-American, and four of the men and three of the women are white.
Some have found it troubling that Democratic State Rep. Pebblin Warren was seated with Susan Hubbard taking notes during voir dire. However, State political operatives say, that Warren and the Hubbards have been friends for years.
On Wednesday, Hubbard’s criminal lawyer, Bill Baxley, informed Judge Jacob Walker, III, that he would be filing a last minute motion, no later than the end of business on Friday. Baxley said the motion would be filed under seal. Judge Walker set a hearing on the motion for Tuesday, before opening arguments, which would seem to discount that the motion is a writ of mandamus to the Court of Criminal Appeals.
Watching a jury selection is somewhat akin to watching grass grow: it’s not very exciting unless a skunk runs across the yard. Then it can become a little more interesting (the skunk in this case resembles a defense strategy).
During jury selection, prospective jurors were asked if they knew certain individuals like Hubbard, former Gov. Bob Riley and Gov. Robert Bentley. Those were all obvious enough, so not much to be learned there.
For those looking into Voodoo country for divine Hubbard’s defense, might not be surprised to learn the defense asked if any potential jurors knew Baron Coleman, Sonny Reagan, Gene Sisson, Kevin Turner and Claire Haynes. What do all these people have in common? Each was called by the defense during the pretrial hearing to give testimony to prosecutorial misconduct, selective and vindictive prosecution.
For over almost two years, Hubbard and his criminal lawyers have accused the State of prosecutorial misconduct, in its investigation and indictment of Hubbard. They’ve enlisted an army of media hacks, talk show bullies, politicos and PR specialists to persuade, not only the trial judge, but the public as well, that the State’s Attorney General’s Office had engaged in a corrupt prosecution of Hubbard, and a witch hunt.
In March, Judge Walker laid those false claims to rest. His order denying Hubbard’s motion to dismiss on prosecutorial misconduct stated, “After considering the briefs of the parties and the testimony and evidence presented at the hearings, the Court is of the opinion that the actions of Mr. Hart do not rise to the level of prosecutorial misconduct as outlined in Nova Scotia, 517 U.S. 456 (1996). Therefore, the Defendant’s motion to dismiss for prosecutorial misconduct is DENIED.”
In April, the State argued that the defense fully intended to raise the issue of prosecutorial misconduct at trial, and asked Judge Walker to exclude such testimony as he did in the Rep. Barry Moore trial. Rather than grant the State’s motion in limine, Judge Walker indicated that he would address the issues if and when they were raised.
As it now appears, this is at least one of Hubbard’s leading tactics to win at trial. This could test Judge Walker’s mettle.
During voir dire, Hubbard’s team also talked about him being a businessman, who happened to be a politico, and that he might use some “pushy” language in a few emails. There was no explanation of what “pushy” language might be. Hubbard is charged with 23 felony counts of public corruption for mainly using his elected office to make millions.
There is a growing betting pool on whether or not Hubbard will plea, or face a jury of his peers. One thing is clear: the jury is set to be sworn in on Tuesday, May 24, with opening arguments to follow.