The jury has officially been selected for the trial of suspended Somerset County District Attorney Jeff Thomas, which is set to begin in early March.
Nearly 100 Somerset County residents passed through the courthouse over the past two days to see whether or not they would become jurors in the trial.
Court officials spoke with 50 of them one-on-one, before they narrowed it down to their final 16, which is made up of 12 jurors plus 4 additional alternates.
Out of the 12 jurors, 9 are men and 3 are women, and out of the 4 alternates, 2 are men and 2 are women.
Thomas is facing sexual assault, simple assault, strangulation, and a slew of other related charges, for allegedly sexually assaulting a Windber woman inside her home in September of 2021.
The potential jurors were sent out a questionnaire in the mail but because this is a “high profile case,” they also had to fill out a 17-page questionnaire containing 50 questions to see what could potentially impact them becoming a juror.
The prospective jurors were questioned one-on-one by the attorneys on both sides, and this interviewing process is what took up most of the time on Monday and Tuesday.
The attorneys took a closer look at what the potential jurors have seen in the news about the case, if they know any of the potential witnesses, and if they have feelings about the case one way or another.
Court officials say that the additional questionnaire and one-on-one interviewing is extremely rare and was done because of Thomas’ position as district attorney at the time of the alleged incident.
Since the prospective jurors are all Somerset County residents, many of those questioned already knew Thomas, and knew about the alleged incident, and officials say if they said their mind was already made up one way or another, they were immediately dismissed from the process.
However, there were still many Somerset County residents who did not know Thomas, or anything about the case details, and if they proved to be unbiased and impartial, they were selected as a juror.
After the jury was selected, the defense filed a motion to have Thomas’ ankle bracelet removed since he’s on probation, but the judge said it will remain until the trial which is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, March 8th.