Winnowing of jurors begins
By Greg Griffin, Staff Writer
Monday, March 19, 2007
A blue-collar, predominantly male jury could be most likely to
convict former Qwest chief executive Joe Nacchio of insider
That's one line of thinking, at least, as jury selection begins
today in Nacchio's trial on 42 criminal counts.
Dozens of Colorado citizens will arrive at the federal
courthouse in downtown Denver this morning with jury summonses
for Nacchio's trial.
Twelve will be chosen to determine Nacchio's fate. Six will
serve as alternates during the trial, which is expected to last
six to eight weeks. They could be called on to join the jury if
a juror cannot complete the trial and deliberations.
If the jury chooses to convict Nacchio, he could go to jail for
life, though a maximum of 10 years is more likely.
"It's huge. Critical decisions as a lawyer in jury selection
can really affect your case," said former federal prosecutor
Tony Leffert, a lawyer with Robinson, Waters & O'Dorisio in
Denver. "It's an art, not a science."
Selection is expected to take one or two days but could take
longer if the judge and attorneys are unable to seat enough
impartial jurors for the well-publicized case.
All involved are looking for jurors who have little or no bias
for or against Nacchio and have no ties to the company or
parties in the case. Closely watched will be whether news
coverage of Nacchio has affected their view of the case.
Leffert and another former federal prosecutor said the
prosecution probably will favor working-class jurors while the
defense will look for professional-class individuals.
Working-class jurors are more likely to be offended by Nacchio's
nine-figure earnings on Qwest stock sales, they said. Jurors
with college degrees may better appreciate the high-priced
market for executive talent and the risks that entrepreneurial
The government also may prefer men over women, Leffert said.
"As a general rule, men tend to be more judgmental, more likely
to vote for conviction," he said. "Women are more likely to
sympathize with the defense."
But generalizations only go so far. A female engineer or
military veteran might be an ideal juror in the prosecution's
mind. And both sides may have an interest in finding bright
jurors who can understand the evidence presented and question
what they're being told by the other side.
"The defense wants someone who won't swallow everything the
government says whole cloth," said Denver attorney Rick Kornfeld.
"The government is going to want smart people also, in the sense
that they're going to need people who can work through their
Attorneys for both sides have submitted juror questions to the
court, and they've reviewed potential jurors' answers to a
questionnaire mailed weeks ago. But they probably won't have
direct contact with the jurors during selection.
U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham will conduct the
questioning and confer with attorneys to determine which should
Each side will be given a certain number of challenges --
typically five -- that they can use to excuse jurors without
cause. Jury selection will be complete when 18 jurors are
Nottingham has indicated that he will closely guard the jurors'
identities to avoid contact with media.
Staff writer Greg Griffin can be reached at 303-954-1241 or
* * * * *
Nacchio trial guide
Jury selection: Begins today at 8:30 a.m. in courtroom
A201 on the second floor of the Alfred A. Arraj Courthouse, 19th
and Champa streets, Denver. Courtroom open for seating 15 to 30
minutes before the start of court. As many as 18 jurors and
alternates will come from a pool of 1,000 randomly selected
Coloradans from the Front Range, central mountains and Eastern
Rules: No cameras or sound recording devices in the
courthouse. Phone use is prohibited in the courtroom. Only
credentialed reporters may use laptop computers for note-taking,
PDAs or cellphones for text messaging.
* * * * *
The Nacchio barometer
After Qwest completed its takeover of US West, Ray Gifford, then
Colorado's top utilities regulator, received a call from
Nacchio's representative. They set up a meeting, which Gifford
thought would be a standard introductory courtesy call.
"He brought so many people with him that we had to move the
meeting from my office to a big conference room. It wasn't so
much a conversation as Joe telling you what he was going to do
and what Qwest's plans were," Gifford said.
Nacchio would sign off on million-dollar ad campaigns without
consulting his marketing director, a reflection of his brash
personality, according to former Qwest ad consultant George
"When you're dealing with regular client structures, you have to
go through the marketing director, the advertising director,
everybody wants their piece. With Joe, it was direct conduit
into him. He was really great," Parker said.
Denver telecom analyst Tom Friedberg of Monarch Bay Associates
recalls driving Nacchio to meet with Invesco fund managers in
"The first thing he did was rag on my vehicle, which was an
older-model luxury car. It was in a kidding way," Friedberg
said. "He knew the fast way out of the Qwest parking lot, and
when we were on the highway, he said, 'Tom, you can use the
diamond lane.' He was a man on a mission. A man in a hurry."
At a University of Colorado-Boulder symposium on the
telecommunications industry in 2002, an embattled Nacchio still
stole the spotlight with his self-assuredness and bold vision,
said Phil Weiser, a professor of law and telecommunications
"He really was a bull in the china shop," Weiser said. "He
showed some real contempt for the legacy culture of US West. He
was of the view that he could really shake up this stodgy Baby
Bell. He did have some very forward-looking ideas, but he also
really made a lot of enemies by how he treated people."