SALT LAKE CITY — An attorney for John Swallow wants to keep a jury questionnaire in the former Utah attorney general's upcoming trial secret because it contains the names of "high-profile" witnesses.
Defense lawyer Cara Tangaro asked 3rd District Judge Elizabeth Hruby-Mills in a hearing Friday to shield the document used to help attorneys evaluate jurors for a trial. The judge didn't say whether she would honor the request but noted the questionnaire would be put in the public record at some point, possibly as late as after the trial.
Swallow's lead attorney, Scott Williams, said after the hearing that he's not trying to hide anything. He said it's arbitrary as to whether witness names appear on a jury questionnaire, and there's no requirement that witnesses be made public before a trial.
"It is true that many witnesses in this case don't want to be in the public profile because they don't want to be harassed by other members of the public, by the press, sure, but more importantly by law enforcement," Williams said. "Many of them already explained that they already have been harassed and they would rather go tell their story on the witness stand when the time comes."
Williams said there's nothing on the questionnaire that anyone needs to see.
Salt Lake media attorney Jeff Hunt said the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that there's a First Amendment right of access to the jury selection process, and the questionnaire is part of that. That's particularly true in the Swallow case due to the widespread public interest, he said.
Hunt said the defense's reasons for wanting to keep potential witnesses from the public don't sound substantial to him.
"The fact that they're high-profile witnesses is not a reason that the questionnaire shouldn't be released. In fact, that should cut the other way. If they're well-known, high-profile individuals, they don't have an expectation of privacy and shouldn't be shielded from the public," he said.
Releasing the names of witnesses who claim to have been harassed by police might actually help them because they will be publicly known and that would serve as a deterrent to harassment, Hunt said.
As many as 120 witnesses between the defense and the prosecution could be called to testify at Swallow's four-week trial scheduled to start Feb. 7. The state publicly filed its witness list containing 52 names and said it has 68 defense witnesses to prepare for.
"We will be ready to cross-examine those witnesses at trial," prosecutor Chou Chou Collins told the judge.
Swallow faces 12 felonies and one misdemeanor, including racketeering, bribery, accepting gifts and obstruction of justice. The former Republican attorney general has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutor Fred Burmester asked the judge to consider a 200-person jury pool, adding he knows that's a huge number. Williams agreed the number ought to be high.
"There's going to be a lot of people who know something about this case and may have formed an opinion," Burmester said.Comment on this story
Williams complained that prosecutors sprung 19 new witnesses and 270 additional exhibits on the defense in the past couple of weeks, leaving him little time to prepare. He asked the judge to exclude those witnesses and exhibits from the case or postpone the trial.
Hruby-Mills denied the motion but ordered the state to provide the defense summaries of those witnesses' testimony by Monday.
Lawyers also continue to wrangle over several issues, including whether the one-time joint but now dismissed criminal case against Swallow's predecessor, Mark Shurtleff, can be brought up during the trial.
The judge scheduled a hearing for Thursday on those matters.