12 Jurors Selected for Train Wreck Trial, After Court Weeds Out Candidates With Preexisting Bias

12 Jurors Selected for Train Wreck Trial, After Court Weeds Out Candidates With Preexisting Bias

By: Julia Deng
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND - Jury selection for the civil trial involving Union Pacific and 17 plaintiffs from the 2012 parade train crash concluded Tuesday evening, with Judge James Rush and attorneys for both sides finalizing a list of 12 jurors and two alternates.

The selection process began Monday morning and continued early Tuesday with a pool of more than 80 potential jurors.

They were questioned by the court - first collectively, then individually - about personal knowledge of the deadly accident, ties to people and entities named in the lawsuit, strong negative feelings about "lawsuits in general" and other factors that could affect their impartiality as jurors.

"The attorneys can object to certain persons serving as jurors and the judge helps arbitrate that process," explained Camden Chancellor, an Odessa attorney previously involved in the case.

Fewer than 20 people in Tuesday's potential juror pool reported being exposed to "absolutely no media coverage" of the November 2012 accident during voir dire.

At least 16 of the remaining 60 or so people who had seen television reports or read articles about the crash admitted they had "already decided Union Pacific was not at fault."

One man in the group stood up when questioned about his preexisting bias and replied, "I think [plaintiffs] are taking this lawsuit too far."

Another man, who said he was a disabled veteran and had worked with the president of the organization behind the Midland parade, was called to speak individually with the judge and attorneys for both sides.

Neither were ultimately selected to sit on the jury. They were both seen exiting the courthouse shortly after 6 p.m. alongside dozens of others in the original jury pool, while the 12 chosen to decide the case - and their two alternates - were held back to speak with attorneys behind closed doors.

"Lawsuits ultimately are about money," Chancellor told NewsWest 9. "There's a lot of law involved in this case that affects the way money will be distributed. This will be a complex [and] fascinating trial."