DALLAS - Jury selection is underway in the federal corruption trial for Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.
Price is accused of accepting bribes from businesses in exchange for helping them win contracts from the county. His longtime assistant Daphney Faine and political consultant Kathy Nealy are also accused of taking part in the scheme.
The 70 prospective jurors come from seven counties, as far west as Johnson County and as far east as Hunt County.
As the jury selection process began on Tuesday, Federal Judge Barbara Lynn told the panel "I know that every single one of you can do it. This is very important.”
Prosecutors questioned jurors on race issues, opinions about Price. They also asked if there was no videotape or smoking gun evidence, could the jurors work with circumstantial evidence.
Attorney Nick Oberheiden, who is not involved in the case, says prosecutors are looking for educated jurors who are open minded to facts and arguments.
Price’s attorneys pressed potential jurors on politics, corruption, how they felt about the government and if they believed law enforcement would lie under oath.
Oberheiden says the questions indicate the defense wants jurors who are sympathetic and possibly have some resentment against the government and law enforcement in general.
“Despite all the good things he has done, this is a different chapter in his life,” Oberheiden said. “And this is the only chapter that matters.”
Trial attorney Stephanie Luce Ola stopped by Good Day to talk about the complex case.
“It’s complex for a lot of reasons. One reason is they’re talking about over 10 years of incidents, events and things that happened. And there’s going to be probably hundreds of witnesses and it’s going to go on for four months,” she said.
Ola believes it may be tough seating a jury. Jurors were given a 20-page questionnaire. Proving Price accepted bribes may also be difficult.
“The fact of the matter is that money is involved in our political system. Just because you give money to a candidate or a public official doesn’t mean you’ve committed a bribe,” she said. “If I give you money and you later rule in my favor, that’s not a crime.”
Jury selection is expected to take days. Judge Lynn will seat a jury of 12 with as many as six alternates.
Price’s seat at the Dallas County Commissioner’s Court sat empty during Tuesday’s meeting. Although the trial is expected to last several months, Judge Clay Jenkins said he would only appoint an interim commissioner if Price is convicted.
He faces up to a lifetime in prison if convicted on multiple counts.