QUEENSBURY — Nine jurors were chosen Monday in Warren County Court to hear the case of Alexander West, the man charged in last summer’s fatal boat crash on Lake George.
The selection process got underway Monday morning with about 80 potential jurors in court as Warren County Judge John Hall explained trial practices and the charges against West to those who were summoned.
Seven men and two women were selected before the day’s proceedings ended. That was much better progress than many expected in light of defense concerns about publicity that led to a change of venue request.
Jury selection could finish up Tuesday, with opening arguments possible late Tuesday afternoon. The trial expected to take three weeks or so.
The judge asked the would-be jurors to be aware that the type of case, focusing on the death of the girl, and media attention will be issues during jury selection. But just being exposed to coverage of the case did not require a pass on jury selection, he added.
“That doesn’t mean you can’t be a fair and impartial juror,” he said.
Lawyers in the case spent more than an hour asking the first group of prospective panelists questions as they tried to get a read on them, and their inquiries highlighted the issues they see in the case.
Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan asked whether they could hold a person accountable even if their crimes stemmed from an unintentional act and for their thoughts on “accidents.”
“Can you hold him accountable for reckless conduct?” she asked.
Defense lawyer Cheryl Coleman highlighted the “emotions” of the case, asking would-be jurors whether they could put them aside and render a fair verdict. She also asked whether they could accept that there could be multiple “causations” to an accident.
Coleman also inquired as to their thoughts on the annual “Log Bay Day” party that West attended before the crash and their thoughts about the passage of time between a person’s “consumption” of alcohol and an incident happening “hours” later.
“The time of the accident is what matters,” she said.
Defense co-counsel Kathryn Conklin also questioned panelists about their views on witnesses who change stories, on witnesses who cooperate with prosecutors and whether jurors would hold it against a defendant if he didn’t testify.
West, 24, faces a 12-count indictment for the crash on Lake George last July 25 that killed 8-year-old Charlotte McCue.
The weightiest charge is second-degree manslaughter, and he is accused of boating under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
He is accused of operating a boat recklessly and after drinking and using illegal drugs, then fleeing the crash scene.
West has pleaded not guilty and is free on bail.
His counsel made a motion to change the venue of the trial because of pretrial publicity, but the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court has rejected it.
Hall read a witness list to potential jurors Monday that included at least 75 names, including four people who were on West’s boat was well Charlotte’s mother and father and her grandfather, who was piloting the boat West is accused of hitting.