ELIZABETHTON - Selecting a jury in a closely knit community can be difficult, as evidenced by the more than six hours during which a prosecutor, defense attorney and a criminal court judge carefully scrutinized a pool of Carter County residents chosen to hear the case of a woman found dead in the Watauga River in the winter of 2004.
Robert Lee Miller, represented by Johnson City attorney Clifton Corker, is accused of murdering Krystal Gail Dubuque, 22, on Feb. 15, 2004. Dubuque's vehicle was found on that day near the Watauga River. Searchers found Dubuque's body three days later, 1,500 feet downstream from where her car was discovered. Miller is charged with first-degree murder.
Corker, Assistant District Attorney Ken Baldwin and Criminal Court Judge Robert Cupp questioned, then excused, several people from the jury pool. It was as if the jury box had a revolving door, with many sitting only a short time after they told the court they either knew the defendant, the victim or witnesses in the case, while others had served on the jury of Carter County's last murder trial.
One potential juror said he had read about the case and had "pretty much made up (his) mind."
When Corker asked the man what his decision would be, Cupp quickly called both Corker and Baldwin to the stand. Within minutes, the juror no longer had any potential as far as the three were concerned.
Shortly before he recessed court for lunch, the judge commented on Carter County's uniqueness. A Carter County resident himself, Cupp said, "There's no place like it in this world. There's a lot of gossip in this community. But it's not fair to Mr. Miller."
After lunch, the process began again. Finally, at 4:48 p.m., Cupp announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, we have a jury."
Taking only a brief recess, the jurors re-entered the courtroom to hear Baldwin's and Corker's opening arguments, but only after Cupp advised the group the attorneys' comments were not be considered as testimony and to only base their decisions strictly on what they hear from the witness stand starting this morning at 9.
Unable to make bond, Miller remains in the Carter County Jail.