The trial of Alexander West will start Wednesday after two days of jury selection that saw the vetting of nearly 200 potential jurors.
West is accused of crashing his boat on Lake George while intoxicated last summer — a crash that killed 8-year-old Charlotte McCue.
“We got 12 people that said they could look at the case based on reason, based on the evidence and not based on emotion,” said West’s attorney, Cheryl Coleman, who called the process “very frustrating” on Monday. “That’s the best you can hope for.”
Warren County Judge John Hall announced the last six jurors at around 3 p.m. Tuesday and said there was not enough time for opening statements, which had been planned for 2:30 p.m. The 12 jurors and two alternates — five women and nine men — were selected out of about 180 candidates who were subjected to questioning from both sides starting Monday morning.
“You are the only people in Warren County proven to be fair and impartial in this case,” Hall told them in explaining why they are forbidden from talking to family and friends about the trial as it proceeds.
The judge also instructed the jurors not to read newspaper articles or watch T.V. news reports on the trial because even the best reporters can make mistakes.
“If you want to read about what’s going on in Washington or what’s happening in Albany, or how the Red Sox are doing, go ahead, just don’t read anything about this case,” he said. “I’ve had jurors in the past who have had their spouse just cut out anything about the case and give them the rest of the paper.”
During the selection process, Coleman asked the candidates if they agreed that there is a difference between consuming some alcohol and being impaired or intoxicated, resulting in nods from most of them. She also suggested that even if alcohol is a factor in a crash, it may not be the only factor worth considering.
She said the defense’s opening statement, to be given by her associate, Kathryn Conklin, would address those questions.
“You’re going to hear all of that and more,” Coleman said. “There’s things that you don’t know about that are going to open up a world of difference … They had to really try to not make certain information come out, and it’s going to come out.”
West pleaded not guilty to a 12-count indictment in October that includes second-degree manslaughter and first-degree assault charges. He is also charged with second-degree assault for allegedly causing serious physical injury to Charlotte’s mother, Courtney McCue.
He faces up to 22 years in prison if convicted on the most serious charge, manslaughter, and second-degree assault.
West, of Lake George, is accused of driving a powerboat that struck another boat at about 9:20 p.m. on July 25 off Cramer Point. The crash happened after he and four passengers had been partying at Log Bay Day, investigators said. The McCues, from Carlsbad, California, were visiting the girl’s grandparents at Lake George at the time.
Coleman said West, who was there for the jury selection but did not speak to reporters, was “absolutely devastated.”
“Any legal issues aside, when you’re involved in something that results in a catastrophic outcome like that … even the most hardened of people are going to feel horrible,” she said. “He’s not hardened. He’s one of the nicest kids I’ve ever represented, and he’s got a great heart, and he feels horrible.”
The trial is expected to open at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, with testimony from witnesses — including McCue's grandmother — to follow.