Judge questions jury questionnaire in upcoming John Jonchuck murder trial

Pinellas County

Jury selection will soon start for John Jonchuck, the man accused of throwing his daughter, Pheobe Jonchuck, over the Dick Misener Bridge.

Judge Chris Helinger said during a motion hearing Friday she’s not confident potential jurors would be forthcoming with some of the questions listed on the questionnaire.

There’s expected to be 50-60 citizens called to be potential jurors.

Judge Helinger addressed the first motion regarding the individual voir dire of the jury.

The state and defense both agreed they did not need to question each juror individually about how much they know or have read about the case.

Instead, individuals who raise their hands will be sequestered and questioned in a side room.

The second motion regards the insanity defense which Jonchuck’s attorneys also want jurors sequestered.

The judge decided once they get down to a reasonable amount of potential jurors, they’ll ask them individually about the insanity defense.

But she wasn’t too thrilled about the jury questionnaire and said jurors might not be truthful.

“When you ask people, ‘do you or anyone else close to you suffer from a mental illness,’ number one, I don’t think you’re gonna get a candid responses from people, period. I don’t think you can rely on it. This is public record after the trial is over. They’re not gonna want that stuff hashed around,” said Judge Helinger.

“‘Have you ever been involved in the process of a Baker Act or involuntary civil commitment proceeding, please explain.’ I think it’s a protected area legally for sure. I don’t think the answers will be reliable.”

Another hearing about the questionnaire will happen on March 8.

The defense has also filed a rebuttal motion which will be heard on Feb. 28.

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