By JEFF REINITZ • Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
WATERLOO --- Court officials seated a jury in the state's child labor case against former Agriprocessors executive Sholom Rubashkin this afternoon.
Associate District Court Judge Nathan Callahan swore in eight people --- six jurors and two alternates --- shortly after 3 p.m. and admonished them to not discuss the case or seek out information about it.
The jury is composed of 5 women and 3 men.
Callahan told jurors to return to the courtroom at 8:45 a.m. Monday.
WATERLOO --- A round of applause broke out after the court finished the first phase of jury selection in the state's child labor case against former Agriprocessors executive Sholom Rubashkin.
Individual questioning of a panel of 14 prospective jurors ended at about 2:10 p.m. today. Panelists had been brought behind closed doors one at a time for interviews.
But enthusiasm among the remaining people in the jury pool quickly subsided as the next phase started.
Attorneys for the state and the defense will pose general questions to the panel in open court. If a panelist is excused for cause, another person from the larger pool is brought in to take their place.
Deputy Attorney General Thomas Henry Miller began by asking if any members of the panel of 14 were familiar with attorneys involved in the case.
He said former Agriprocessors human resources employees Laura Althouse and Elizabeth Billmeyer may be called as witnesses and asked potential jurors if they knew them or if they would have trouble considering testimony from people who entered into agreements with the government in exchange for leniency.
Miller also asked panelist if they had experience working in slaughterhouse operations. Two initially indicated they had.
WATERLOO --- Jury selection continued in the state's child labor case against former Agriprocessors executive Sholom Rubashkin.
The court is working toward seating a jury of six with two alternates.
Some 45 people were called for jury selection, and about five were excused following closed-door interviews with individual jurors Tuesday.
Another 30 people were added to the larger pool this morning, and the closed-door interviews continued.
By the noon break today, the court was nearing the end of the closed-door portion of the jury selection process, and the pool was told to report back at 1:30 p.m.
Officials said they plan to pick a jury and then recess until Monday when opening statements are slated to start.
Prospective jurors have been reading and making small talk during the wait. The judge has prohibited them from using cell phones and other electronic devices in the courtroom.
Members of Rubashkin's family also have been in the courtroom during jury selection.
Rubashkin, 50, is charged with 83 misdemeanor counts of child labor violations, and prosecutors said minors worked at Agriprocessors' Postville plant near dangerous machinery and toxic chemicals.
An attorney for the corporation entered a guilty plea to charges against the company on Tuesday. Attorney Mark Weinhardt said the plea didn't reflect on the knowledge or intent of Sholom Rubashkin or his father, Abraham Aaron Rubashkin, who is another corporate officer, but instead on others at the plant.
The Iowa Attorney General's Office, which is prosecuting the case, dropped charges against Abraham Aaron Rubashkin and human resources employee Laura Althouse.
Charges against human resources workers Elizabeth Billmeyer and Karina Freund were separated for further proceedings at a later date. Assistant Attorney General Thomas H. Miller said the state had worked out agreements with the two.