Jury may be seated today in Goff case

Published 9:46 am Wednesday, August 3, 2011

150 potential jurors probed on pretrial publicity

What did they know and how did they find it out?

Those were the principal questions asked of approximately 150 potential jurors in the Megan Goff murder case Monday and Tuesday in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court.

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Goff, formerly of Hamilton Township, is standing trial for the 2006 shooting death of her estranged husband, Bill Goff. She maintains she shot the man in self-defense and suffers from battered woman syndrome. A first trial ended with Goff’s conviction and a 33-year prison sentence, but the Ohio Supreme Court overturned the conviction last year and ordered a new trial.

Defense attorneys Paula Brown, William Bluth and Richard Parsons had asked for a change of venue early on, saying pretrial publicity and knowledge of the case within the community because of the first trial might make it difficult to seat a fair and impartial jury.

In front of Visiting Judge Patrick McGrath Monday and Tuesday, each potential juror was brought in for a private session to discuss what effect, if any, pretrial publicity or town gossip had on their view of Goff and the case.

“The case has received a fair amount of publicity,” McGrath explained to each juror. “We’re trying to find out from any prospective juror what they may have learned.”

Several people Tuesday afternoon said they either knew very little about the case, or absolutely nothing.

“I don’t watch the news much and I don’t read the paper much,” one man who appeared in his early 30s admitted. “I know there was a shooting and some kind of domestic dispute. That’s about all I know.”

Some prospective jurors said they had enough to contend with in their own life and didn’t have time to follow the trial.

“I don’t read the paper, I work all the time,” one woman who appeared to be in her 20s said.

Others said they had heard about the case on television news or had read about the case in the newspaper. One woman admitted she read The Tribune every day.

“I’ve seen several articles,” she said, admitting she had strongly held views. She was dismissed.

Some who were questioned said they had heard other people talking about the case and the town talk was the bulk of their knowledge of the case. One man said he knew nothing about the case until he had shown up for jury duty and heard others discussing the case.

Others said they knew either Megan Goff or Bill Goff.

“I had been dealing with him several years ago,” one man said. “A good friend of his is my sister-in-law’s brother.” He admitted he had strong feelings about the case.

A couple of young women said they had been Megan Goff’s high school classmate.

“She lived across the street from me and rode my bus,” one woman said.

Another of Goff’s former classmates said she had been in an abusive relationship herself. She said she doubted she could deliver fair and impartial decision.

One woman who said she owned a small business was dismissed because it would cause a financial hardship for her to be a juror in a trial that may last 2-3 weeks.

Of the 150 initially called, approximately 70 will return today for group voir dire, or discussion. These people will be asked if there are other reasons they cannot decide the case. The jury will be selected from those 70.