Jury selection begins in Gerlach manslaughter trial

Jury selection begins in Gerlach manslaughter trial

SPOKANE, Wash. - Jury selection began Monday for one of Spokane's most hotly debated shootings as Gail Gerlach stands trial for manslaughter.

Gerlach has admitted shooting a convicted car thief who was stealing an SUV out of Gerlach's driveway when Gerlach opened fire.

Prospective jurors are being quizzed about their gun ownership and both the trial judge and attorneys are learning that a lot of Spokane County residents own guns and have concealed weapons permits.

Prospective jurors are also being asked if they've ever belonged to the NRA.

Judge Annette Plese summoned 100 Spokane County residents to Superior Court Monday morning and after they were sworn to tell the truth about their qualifications as prospective jurors the court told the group about what type of questions they'd be answering.

"The questions are not being asked to invade your privacy but to select a fair and impartial jury," Judge Plese told the prospective jurors.

Plese first asked the panel about what they've heard about the case in the media but then the questionnaire zeroed in gun ownership. Both the defense and prosecutors want to know about NRA membership and any other pro-gun leanings because Gerlach is accused to shooting a man stealing his SUV.

One prospective juror was dismissed because he told the court he felt Gerlach had the right to defend his property. Another was dismissed after she said people who carry guns bring trouble on themselves.

Right now, the court is looking for jurors who haven't formed an opinion and still have open minds.

"It will be your duty to determine the facts that have been proved in court. It is also your duty to accept your law from the court regardless of what you think the law should be," Plese said.

Of course that will be the trick, finding jurors ready to set aside their own beliefs in this case that has polarized our community and only consider the evidence and law presented in court. 78 of the 100 people who filled out the questionnaire had concerns about that today.

While the court is still working to determine who will sit on the jury, the court has ruled at least one person will not be allowed in the courtroom during the trial. Gail Gerlach's wife cannot be called by prosecutors as a witness, because of a law that protects spouses from having to testify against each other, but she may be called as a defense witness and so can't be inside the courtroom to support her husband during the trial.