A Pre-Trial Conference was held in 4th Judicial District Court Tuesday morning in the case of The State vs. Dharminder Vir Sen. Judge John Fenn said that like the Dennis Poitra, Jr. jury pool selection, fifty jurors will be called for the morning of October 25th, and if a complete jury is not selected from those, then fifty will be called for that afternoon.
Judge Fenn also said that he will reserve his decision on the Change of Venue issue after jury selection. Sen's attorney, Tim Cotton of Casper, asked to be able to issue a pre-trial questionnaire, but acknowledged that he had not been at the August hearing where the Court ruled against it. Judge Fenn said it was not because the Court has an issue with using a questionnaire, but rather with the questions themselves.
To the issue of waiting until jury selection to make a decision on Change of Venue, Cotton heatedly said that he's concerned that with everyone in the courtroom “chomping at the bit” to get to trial, with witnesses in motels, and the jury pool having arranged for time off, and then the Court deciding “oh, we have to move it”, it would not be fair for the defendant, nor for all the parties involved. Judge Fenn stood by the earlier decision and will wait.
Several Motions were also addressed, to be reported in a separate story.
And in what may easily be a first for 4th Judicial District Court, at least under Judge Fenn's watch, was how it was determined at which table Counsel and Sen would be seated during the trial. Cotton said that he'd observed that during Poitra's trial, the jury did not have a clear line of sight with Poitra seated at the table furthest from the jury box, and made the request to have the table nearest the jury box. Cotton added that the jury needed to see Sen's countenance, especially given the fact that he could be facing life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prosecutor for the State, Sheridan County Attorney Matt Redle told Judge Fenn he'd “arm wrestle” Cotton for it, indicating that it didn't really matter to him one way or the other.
Judge Fenn said that typically in his courtroom, the State took the nearest table because they had the burden of proof in the case. But, Fenn said, “given Mr. Redle's response, how would you feel about a coin toss?” Both parties agreed, Redle called “heads”; it came up tails, and the Defense will sit nearest the jury.
Sen is the third defendant in the Robert Ernst murder case. Dennis Poitra, Jr. was found guilty by a jury on September 2nd on three counts -- Felony Murder; Conspiracy to Commit Aggravated Burglary; and Aggravated Burglary. Wyatt Bear Cloud changed his plea to Guilty on all three counts during a status hearing September 8th.