Jury selection for the second trial of the 71-year-old man accused of kidnapping and murdering 12-year-old Jonelle Matthews in 1984 will begin at 8.30am on Tuesday.
Steve Pankey, 71, appeared virtually before Judge Timothy Kerns for a status conference on Thursday afternoon dealing with motions for a change of venue for the trial and questions for jury selection.
Law enforcement arrested Pankey in October 2020, after he was indicted by a grand jury. In 2019, he became a person of interest in the case, prompting two Greeley detectives to visit his Idaho home, where a search warrant was later executed.
Pankey’s first trial ended in a hung jury on the kidnapping and murder charges, though Pankey was found guilty of false reporting – a charge added after Pankey testified that he lied to police. the order about the case.
Defense attorney Jessica Brazil asked the court to grant Pankey a change of venue due to the fact that his first trial received widespread media attention, particularly in the Greeley Tribune, and the case became well known in Weld County for the past three decades.
During jury selection last year, Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke said there was a large majority of jurors who had never heard of the case.
Kerns supported Rourke’s remarks, stating that few jurors were biased or aware of the case. He even said that the previous jury selection included a large number of people exposed to the media about Pankey, who shared that they got more details about the case from the jury’s questionnaire than from the news.
Since last year’s jury selection saw no problem finding a fair and impartial jury, Kerns denied the motion to change the location of Pankey’s second trial.
To help weed out residents of Weld County who are not considered fair and impartial, Brazil also asked to include certain questions in the questionnaire, such as whether people have or have formed an opinion about Pankey or whether jurors read or subscribe to the Greeley Tribune.
Rourke, who said he took last year’s questionnaire and made some changes, objected to the questions asked by the defense. He said he was willing to ask questions such as, “Do you regularly listen to radio shows or podcasts? How do you hear from you? »
But he objected to bringing the issues related to the Greeley Tribune, while correcting Brazil, which referred to Weld County as “Greeley County” repeatedly in documents and at the implementation conference. state.
The court will ask if anyone has formed or has an opinion on this case, but Rourke objected to introducing Pankey-specific questions because he said the focus was not on Pankey. Brazil said the focus may be on Jonelle rather than Pankey, but this lawsuit will ensure his client receives fair and unbiased rulings.
“We are certainly able to select a fair and impartial jury,” Rourke said.
Kerns will decide on the details of the questionnaire once he has reviewed the completed material.
In their final preparations before heading to jury selection, Rourke asked the court to consider advising a jury on Pankey’s first trial, while advising jurors that they should not consider that fact for any purpose.