By TYLER REYNARD
WHEELING - Former Wheeling police officer Matthew Kotson's trial on two counts of first-degree sexual abuse will start Monday after the court spent all day Thursday and Friday morning selecting a jury.
The panel of eight women and four men was selected from 41 people who arrived at an Ohio County courtroom on the second floor of the Wheeling City-County Building on Thursday morning. Those 41 had completed jury questionnaires prior to Thursday as part the court's effort to expedite the selection process.
The court clerk called the names of prospective jurors randomly, one at a time. Those individuals were then questioned about their questionnaire responses in Senior Status Judge Arthur Recht's chambers by Kotson's attorney, Robert McCoid, and special Prosecutor David F. Cross.
After calling 31 names, the court had identified 20 acceptable candidates around 11:30 a.m. Friday. The attorneys then began the striking process to reach 12. Cross was the first to strike, eliminating two individuals from the case. McCoid followed and removed six more candidates.
At about 11:45 a.m. Friday, more than nine months after Kotson was arrested by West Virginia State Police, the court had assembled a jury of his peers that is expected to decide on his guilt.
The panel of 12 took their seats in the jury box and the remainder sat in the courtroom audience while Recht advised the jurors to exercise discretion outside of the courtroom. He instructed the jury not to speak to anyone about the case. The 12 individuals will wear name tags identifying them as jurors during the trial.
Recht went on to say any prying individuals who attempt to discuss the case with the jury "will not be tolerated." If that occurs, jurors should report it to the bailiff or Recht himself, the judge said.
The trial will commence with opening statements at 8:30 a.m. Monday. The case is expected to be handed over to the jury for deliberation sometime Wednesday.
McCoid last week announced his doubt - based on the responses from a previous pool of jury questionnaires - that Ohio County Circuit Court could seat a jury. At that time, he anticipated filing for a change of venue. Recht subsequently scrapped that jury pool and issued a new set of questionnaires Sept. 4.
McCoid on Friday said he is "very satisfied" with the jury and believes members will be "very open-minded and fair."
Next week's trial will be the second of four that Recht scheduled in the case. The first trial on one count of second-degree sexual assault was canceled in July after Cross said uncooperative witnesses led to a drastic deterioration of the prosecution's case against Kotson.
The alleged victim in the upcoming trial was the first of four women to accuse the former police officer of sexual misconduct. She arrived at the West Virginia State Police detachment in Wheeling on Thanksgiving Day, reporting crimes she said Kotson committed against her at her home earlier that day.
Police identified two of the alleged victims as a result of the initial investigation, while the fourth accuser came forward after she learned of the allegations against Kotson in media reports.
Kotson has remained free on $100,000 bond.