HOUSTON Jury selection began Monday in the first trial of a former Houston police officer charged in the beating of a burglar, a crime captured on a videotape that top elected officials unsuccessfully tried to keep off of television.
Andrew Blomberg is one of four former HPD officers charged in the heavily publicized assault of Chad Holley, a teenager whom the officers kicked and stomped as he lay on the ground with his hands behind his head.
Blomberg stands charged with official oppression, a crime punishable by up to a year in jail. But in some ways, the misdemeanor trial looks more like a capital murder case.
The trial requires only seven jurors six to deliberate and one as an alternate but lawyers on both sides are questioning each potential juror individually, asking whether they ve seen the videotape and whether they could render an impartial verdict. State District Judge Ruben Guerrero has moved the jury selection to a larger ceremonial courtroom on the top floor of the criminal courthouse. And the defendant is represented by Dick DeGuerin, a high-profile criminal lawyer who s defended everybody from admitted killers to corrupt politicians.
A surveillance camera mounted outside Uncle Bob s Self Storage at 8450 Cook Road videotaped the incident in March 2010. Mayor Annise Parker, HPD Chief Charles McClelland and Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos wanted to prevent the tape from airing on television, but an employee leaked the video to community activist Quanell X, who released it to the media.
Among the few spectators sitting in the courtroom for the first day of jury selection was Cyndi Payton, the woman who says she released the video. Payton says she lost her job over the incident.
Attorneys for both sides are questioning each potential juror for up to 40 minutes. Even though the jury will be comparatively small, selection is expected to take days.