Judge Rules Against Warr Attorneys on Juror Questionnaire
By Keith Burton - GCN 7/2/09 (Correction on trial date 7/3/09)
Federal Judge Walter J. Gex III on Wednesday ruled against attorney for Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr and his wife Laura regarding a request to allow for juror questionnaires to be given to potential jurors.
Defense attorneys had asked for the opportunity to submit questions to potential jurors prior to being selected to sit in the trial currently scheduled for September 8. The Warrs are facing a 16-count federal indictment for Katrina and insurance fraud.
Judge Gex ruled:
"The Court has thoroughly considered the proffered questions and believes that voir dire will provide each party with an opportunity to adequately question all prospective jurors for this trial. The Court therefore finds that the juror questionnaire is unnecessary and will not be utilized. It is, therefore, ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that Defendantís motion  to utilize prospective juror questionnaires be, and is hereby, denied."
The ruling can be seen as a bit of a setback for the Warrs in that the information from the questionnaires could have provided more information needed to select jurors that could be more lenient to the Gulfport couple.
Federal prosecutors had argued that providing the questionnaires could color the jury and add to the pre-trial publicity in the case. Their first argument against the questionnaires were that the Warr attorneys just wanted them. "The defendant has put forth no basis for the use of a questionnaire in the instant case other than he wants one," said government prosecutors in their response to the questionnaire request.
Warr to date is the the highest-ranking public official charged with fraud related to the 2005 hurricane. He didn't seek re-election this year and his term of office ends July 6. Warr and his wife, Laura, pleaded not guilty to charges of seeking a homeowners grant for a house they owned but did not live in, which is the basis for much of the federal indictment. Both Warrs face up to 210 years in prison and a potential fine up to $4 million if convicted on each count of the indictment.
Judge's Ruling on Questionnaires - .pdf file
Government's Response to Questionnaire Motion - .pdf file