Zumba trial tests patience of prospective jurors
by David Sharp, Associated Press
January 28, 2013 11:50 AM | 733 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In this Jan. 18, 2013 file photo, Mark Strong Sr., right, and his attorney, Dan Lilley, leave the Cumberland County Court House in Portland, Maine. The trial of a key figure in a prostitution scandal at a Zumba studio in Maine has gone through four days without a jury being selected. And it’s unclear if the process will resume Monday. The defense is worried that the lengthy delays could cause potential jurors to turn against Strong even before jury selection is completed and the trial begins in earnest. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)
In this Jan. 18, 2013 file photo, Mark Strong Sr., right, and his attorney, Dan Lilley, leave the Cumberland County Court House in Portland, Maine. The trial of a key figure in a prostitution scandal at a Zumba studio in Maine has gone through four days without a jury being selected. And it’s unclear if the process will resume Monday. The defense is worried that the lengthy delays could cause potential jurors to turn against Strong even before jury selection is completed and the trial begins in earnest. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)
slideshow
Mark Strong, Sr. talks with his attorney Dan Lilley after Justice Nancy Mills dropped most of the charges against Strong, Friday, Jan. 25, 2013 at York County Superior Court in Alfred, Maine. Strong is on trial for helping Alexis Wright run a one-woman prostitution business from a Kennebunk dance studio. (AP Photo/Portland Press Herald, Gregory Rec, Pool)
Mark Strong, Sr. talks with his attorney Dan Lilley after Justice Nancy Mills dropped most of the charges against Strong, Friday, Jan. 25, 2013 at York County Superior Court in Alfred, Maine. Strong is on trial for helping Alexis Wright run a one-woman prostitution business from a Kennebunk dance studio. (AP Photo/Portland Press Herald, Gregory Rec, Pool)
slideshow
ALFRED, Maine (AP) — The defense and the judge aren’t happy with delays in the trial of the business partner in a prostitution scandal at a Zumba studio. Prosecutors aren’t happy, either, after the judge dismissed nearly four dozen charges.

But the unhappiest group of all may be the remaining members of the jury pool, who were hidden away in the courthouse basement over four days of proceedings last week.

“They hate waiting,” said jury expert Valerie Hans of Cornell University Law School. “I’m thinking jurors would rather be in a courtroom listening to really challenging and difficult testimony rather than just waiting around.”

Jury selection in the trial of Mark Strong Sr. moved in fits and starts last week with delays caused by a pair of appeals to the state supreme court. On Monday, remaining members of the jury pool were told to stay home.

Strong’s lawyers pleaded with the judge to speed things along Friday after prosecutors appealed the judge’s decision to dismiss 46 charges. They feared that the jurors could make Strong the target of their frustration when the trial gets under way in earnest.

“There’s no doubt they could take it out on him,” defense lawyer Tina Nadeau told the judge in York County Superior Court.

Strong, 57, of Thomaston, was originally charged with 59 misdemeanor counts including conspiring with dance instructor Alexis Wright who’s accused of using her Kennebunk dance studio as a prostitution front.

Prosecutors say prostitution clients were videotaped without their knowledge, and the dismissed charges related to invasion of privacy. The remaining 13 counts focus on prostitution.

The first delay came Thursday when the Portland Press Herald sued over the judge’s closed-door questioning of more than 140 potential jurors. The state supreme court ordered the judge to conduct the process in open court.

Remaining members of the jury pool reported back to duty Friday, only to be sent home again because of prosecutors’ appeal.

It was unclear when, or if, the state supreme court planned to schedule arguments on the latest appeal. Until it’s resolved, jury selection will remain on hold.

Hans, a Cornell law school professor who has surveyed jurors on their experiences, said the judge in such cases can appease prospective jurors by keeping them updated on the proceedings, and explaining the importance of their job.

Even then, prospective jurors and jurors have limits to their patience, though she said there’s no research to suggest that they’d punish a defendant for wasting their time.

As for the prospective jurors, they’re off-limits to reporters, so no one really knows what they’re thinking.

Strong, a married insurance agent, has acknowledged having a physical relationship with Wright after helping her launch her Pura Vida fitness studio by co-signing her lease and loaning her money that she repaid with interest. He said he never paid her for sex and was unaware of any prostitution.

Police said Wright videotaped many of the encounters without clients’ knowledge and kept records suggesting the sex acts generated $150,000 over 18 months.

Wright faces 106 counts including prostitution and invasion of privacy for acts performed in her dance studio and in a rented office. She’ll be tried later.

Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, spam, and links to outside websites will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides