Former state senator's trial begins in Nashville - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Janice Broach

Former state senator's trial begins in Nashville

Jury selection began in Nashville on Tuesday for a second federal trial of former state Sen. John Ford on public corruption charges.

Potential jurors in Ford's trial walked into the federal building in Nashville Tuesday morning to begin the process of selecting 12 jurors and three alternates.  As the judge and attorneys started questioning the first 15 prospective jurors, it became clear almost everyone had heard of John Ford.

"I have a negative opinion of him," dismissed juror Molly Kennedy said. "It would be hard for me to be impartial, but I think that would be true for anyone."

"The impression I had of him is when I first saw him," said dismissed juror Dan Reynolds. "He was an arrogant son-of-a-gun walking through a door, and that door slamming on a reporter."

Ford's Tennessee Waltz conviction could also be a problem for jurors.  Several potential jury members said they had seen undercover FBI video of Ford taking money in news coverage, and they felt he had done something wrong in the Nashville case.

The opinion was not split down racial lines.  Juror #15, an African-American woman, told the court she felt Ford, "stole money and is a liar."  When Isaiah Gant, Ford's public defender, asked her if Ford was a thief and a liar, she answered "yes" to both questions.

Gant asked Juror #6, a white woman, "Do you feel Ford did something wrong?"

"Well, yeah.  This is a lot of stuff," the woman replied, referring to the 23 page indictment against Ford.

In court, Ford sat quietly and listened to what potential jurors had to say.  He is serving a prison sentence on a separate conviction in the Tennessee Waltz FBI investigation.

In the Nashville case, Ford is accused of accepting $800,000 from two TennCare contractors to promote those private companies' interests while he held elected office.

Jury selection was originally to have begun June 24, but Assistant Public Defender Isaiah Gant, who represents the Memphis Democrat, accused prosecutors of not turning over documents relating to grand jury testimony until June 20.

Tuesday, 12 jurors and one alternative were selected, leaving just two alternates to be selected Wednesday before opening arguments begin.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Click here to send an email to Janice Broach.

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