On June 19, Updyke confessed to poisoning the Toomer’s oaks to our reporter Andrew Yawn.
On June 20, Updyke denied that confession, according to lawyer Everett Wess.
Plainsman community editor Yawn was subpoenaed on June 20 and placed under a gag order as a potential witness in the trial.
Judge Walker said Wess’ motion requesting a change of venue will be ruled on after the jury selection process is completed. Wess’ intent to move the trial seemed intensified due to what he called a “poisoning” of the juror pool, by his client’s confession to Yawn.
Walker then noted that the pool of 85 that was sworn in on June 19 had already been told not to keep up with any news surrounding the case.
Lee County District Attorney Robert Treese said about the Plainsman report, that Auburn police had already spoke with Yawn and that the “veracity” of his story is “better than what the defense claims.” He pointed out that Yawn relayed information to him that was not released to the public or media yet.
“The defense is claiming it’s poisoned the jury pool when they themselves are the source of the poison,” Treese said.
Two other motions were filed by Wess, one to suppress Updyke’s original interrogation by Auburn police and another to suppress a statement filed by the prosecution June 20. The reason for such a late statement was officially unclear but is probably related to the Plainsman’s story about Updyke’s confession.
The jury has still not been filled, but prosecutors are trying.
Fifty-one potential jurors remain from the original pool. The judge will have the final say on the status of five of them, as the defense and prosecutors could only agree on 46 of the possible jurors.
The process after this involves a computer program selecting 24 names at random. The attorneys on either side will then have six “strikes” to remove names of jurors they don’t want to serve, cutting it down to 12.
There are also nine alternates who are split in three groups where each side then cuts one per group. This leaves three final possible alternates.
Wess said opening arguments will hopefully closely follow the end of that process.
“Maybe tomorrow afternoon, after lunch.” Wess said. “Or maybe on Friday morning.”