FARGO, N.D. (AP) — An attorney for a man convicted of the 2003 killing of a University of North Dakota student spent several hours Tuesday questioning a juror about alleged misconduct, including whether she withheld information on a questionnaire because shew as eager to be part of the proceedings.
Jurors in 2006 convicted Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., of Crookston, Minnesota, of kidnapping and killing Dru Sjodin, of Pequot Lakes, Minnesota. It has been nearly four years since Rodriguez’s attorneys filed a federal habeas corpus motion, considered the last step in the appeals process.READ MORE: Woman Critically Injured In Minneapolis Shooting
Among the myriad complaints by Rodriguez’s lawyers is juror misconduct, although court documents outlining those accusations are sealed from public view. During Tuesday’s hearing, Andrew Mohring, one of Rodriguez’s attorneys, spent several hours going over a 121-question survey with juror Rebecca Vettel.
Mohring suggested through his questioning that Vettel failed to give truthful or complete answers on whether she had ever been arrested, whether she was ever involved in a lawsuit or how many times she had been inside a courtroom. Vettel had been arrested three times for driving without liability insurance and was involved in lawsuits as part of two divorces.
Mohring asked Vettel if she “purposely chose to withhold information” to get on the panel.
“I didn’t purposely withhold it,” Vettel replied.
Through cross-examination by Assistant U.S. Attorney Keith Reisenauer, Vettel said she didn’t mention the arrests because the question excluded simple traffic violations and she believed they fit into that category. Vettel said she didn’t think to mention the lawsuits because they were part of proceedings during two divorces.READ MORE: Twins, Lynx, And Gophers Take Home Weekend Wins
Vettel also told the court she was the victim of an attempted sexual assault and suffered domestic abuse in prior relationships, which led Mohring to wonder why she didn’t include that in her questionnaire.
Sjodin was abducted from the parking lot of a Grand Forks shopping mall in November 2003. Authorities say she was raped, beaten and stabbed by Rodriguez, a convicted sex offender. It is North Dakota’s only federal death penalty case.
Tuesday’s hearing started nearly two hours late while technicians figured out how to hook up Rodriguez and one of his lawyers via video from a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. The video system went out again in the afternoon so Rodriguez and attorney Joseph Margulies listened over the phone.
Another of Rodriguez’s lawyers began questioning another juror Tuesday afternoon, but U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson cleared the courtroom during her testimony because the judge said it was delving into sensitive information.
Members of the Sjodin and Rodriguez families declined to comment afterward. The hearing resumes Wednesday.MORE NEWS: St. Paul Police Report Rapid Increase Of Overdoses, Warn Of Synthetic Opioids
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