United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Phil Gilbert United States District Judge.
matter comes before the Court on defendant James Nathaniel
Watts's motion to have his jury selected from the county
of the alleged offense (Alexander County, Illinois) and to
prevent the transformation of the racial demographics of the
venire (Doc. 363). In his motion, Watts argues that 18 U.S.C.
§ 3235 requires that the jury in this capital case be
selected exclusively from Alexander County. The Government
has responded to the motion (Doc. 387).
has been charged in this case in a two-count Indictment (Doc.
15). Count 1 charges Watts with the May 15, 2014, attempted
armed bank robbery of the First National Bank in Cairo,
Illinois, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a), (d) and
(e). The indictment further alleges that in attempting to rob
the bank Watts used dangerous weapons to assault or put in
jeopardy the life of another person and, in fact, killed
Anita Grace and Nita Smith. Count 2 charges Watts with
possessing a firearm as a felon.
the indictment alleges that death resulted from the attempted
bank robbery, the possible penalty should Watts be convicted
of Count 1 is death or life imprisonment. See 18
U.S.C. § 2113(e). The Government seeks the death penalty
under the Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994, 18 U.S.C.
§§ 3591-98, and accordingly, pursuant to §
3593(a), has filed a Notice of Intent to Seek the Death
Penalty (Doc. 92).
offenses charged in the Indictment were alleged to have
occurred in Alexander County, which is within the Southern
District of Illinois. The trial is scheduled to take place at
the federal courthouse in Benton, Illinois. Pursuant to the
Court's Plan for the Random Selection of Jurors
(“Jury Plan”), the Court must select jurors for
all cases tried in Benton from twenty-seven counties -
including Alexander County - within the Southern District.
The Jury Plan designates these counties as the Benton
Division. The Benton courthouse is the only operational
courthouse within the Benton Division.
Relevant Constitutional and Statutory Provisions
the Constitution and the laws of the United States have
provisions relating to location of the trial of, or selection
of jurors in, criminal cases. Provisions requiring that
jurors be selected from areas in relation to the site of the
charged offense are often referred to as vicinage
issue is first addressed in Article III of the Constitution,
which provides that, generally, a defendant must be tried in
the state of the offense: “The Trial of All Crimes . .
. shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the
State where the said Crimes shall have been
committed.” U.S. Const. art. III, § 2, cl. 3
(emphasis added). The Sixth Amendment adds the requirement
that the jurors be drawn from the predetermined judicial
district where the offense was committed:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the
right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury
of the State and district wherein the crime shall have
been committed, which district shall have been
previously ascertained by law. . . .
Const. amend. VI (emphasis added). The principle that a
defendant should be tried by the community is one of the
fundamental principles of our judicial system. Accordingly,
the Supreme Court has read into the Sixth Amendment a
guarantee that a jury will be composed of a fair
cross-section of the community, Taylor v. Louisiana,
419 U.S. 522, 530 (1975), and Congress has codified that
requirement in the Jury Selection and Service Act of 1968
(“JSSA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1861 et seq.
statute at the heart of Watts's motion further expresses
a preference for holding a capital criminal ...