Here’s what we learned from the prosecuting attorney on day one of the Bass Trial
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Bass on trial for Stavik’s death
Timothy Bass is on trial in Whatcom County Superior Court for the 1989 murder of Amanda Stavik.
Seating a jury for the Whatcom County Superior Court trial of Timothy Forrest Bass was a concern for both the prosecution and defense teams.
In order to make sure there was a large enough group of people to pick from, the court had to take extra steps.
Bass, 51, of Everson, is on trial for first-degree murder for the 1989 death of 18-year-old Amanda “Mandy” Stavik. Opening statements began Friday morning.
Earlier in the case, Bass’ team of three public defenders filed a motion to reserve the right to move the trial if a fair and impartial jury couldn’t be seated.
In order to make sure that didn’t have to happen, the court sent a summons to nearly 150 people and pulled from two jury pools.
Normally only around 60 or 70 jurors are sent summons if it’s a case that has received some publicity, according to the attorneys. The goal for this trial was to seat 12 jurors and four alternates.
Selecting a jury
In an attempt to streamline the process, all the jurors were brought in to fill out an questionnaire that both sides agreed upon. It asked things such as:
▪ If they had a situation that would make them unable to devote their attention to a three-week trial.
▪ What they had heard or knew about the case.
▪ Their favorite television shows and hobbies and what bumper stickers they had on their car.
▪ Whether they had family in the legal or law enforcement communities.
▪ Whether they knew any of the people involved in the case.
▪ Whether they knew someone or they themselves had been accused or convicted of a crime.
▪ Whether they had already formed an opinion in the case or if there was a reason they couldn’t be fair.
In all, the questionnaire asked a total of 36 questions and provided an option for jurors to speak privately with the attorneys about a few sensitive questions.
Depending on their answers, jurors were called in individually on Monday and Tuesday to answer further questions about their responses to whether they had heard about the case and whether they had already formed an opinion.
The attorneys asked 79 people questions and excused more than 20 of them, according to court records. Several others were excused because of personal hardships or medical issues.
On Wednesday, more than 100 prospective jurors gathered in the County Council chambers on the first floor of the Whatcom County courthouse.
For some, this was now their second week of being under the court’s order as a prospective juror.
The attorneys posed various scenarios to the jurors and asked them to give examples for things such as:
▪ How they determine credibility of people in their everyday lives.
▪ Whether they supervise other people.
▪ What they would do if they had a great idea and their boss stole it.
▪ How they would determine when to fire someone and how they’d handle it.
▪ How they would convince a police officer someone had intent to steal their car if their car had been stolen.
▪ What they were doing on Nov. 24, 1989 and if they remember any details.
▪ How they would feel if the defendant didn’t testify in a case.
▪ Why DNA evidence might be found on a dead person but wouldn’t mean that that person was responsible for the killing.
Why jurors were excused
Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Rob Olson, who is presiding over Bass’ trial, had jurors raise their hands if they had a reason why they shouldn’t or couldn’t sit on a three-week trial, or if they had a close friend or family member, or they themselves, who experienced a similar type of case or incident.
Many who were later excused for hardships said their work wouldn’t pay them while they were on the jury and it would cause financial problems, they were in school or had large projects coming up for work, there was no one to cover for them while they were gone or they had medical issues.
One man, who was later excused, who rotates between working the night and day shifts, said he was scheduled for night shift this upcoming week. He said if he were selected to sit on the trial, he would have to go to work, be there for 12 hours, come home and have two hours to sleep and eat and then would have to report back for jury service. He would also miss his day shifts due to the trial.
Another prospective juror said he and his wife were scheduled to drive to Colorado because they didn’t want to miss his god-daughter’s graduation. He was later excused.
One woman said she just wasn’t comfortable sitting on the jury. She has a family member in prison and was worried that if the jury returned a guilty verdict, something may happen to her family member. One of the attorneys also had prosecuted her family member’s case.
A few jurors had close friends or family members who were murdered and said this case was too close for them to be able to sit on the jury.
In the end, a jury was seated and alternates were picked shortly before noon on Thursday. They have been instructed not to speak with anyone or follow any media coverage of the case.
Testimony is expected to continue in the trial on Monday, May 13, when some of Stavik’s family are expected to take the stand.
BEHIND OUR REPORTING
About our coverage
Reporter Denver Pratt will be in court every day of the Timothy Bass trial for the 1989 death of Amanda “Mandy” Stavik. Bass is accused of first-degree murder.
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