The jury selection for the trial of former Chesterfield Sheriff Sanford Marion “Sam” Parker took all day Monday. It was nearly 6 p.m. before 15 jurors, without prior knowledge of the case, or personal ties that would prevent them from making fair and impartial decisions in the case, could be established.
But Tuesday morning, when the prosecution called Chesterfield County Detective Wayne Jordan as its first witness, the complicated mix of emotions for the people involved with this case were seen through the tears of an officer on the stand.
Parker, who served as sheriff of Chesterfield County for 11 years, was removed from office in March of last year after a South Carolina Law Enforcement (SLED) investigation charged him with embezzlement, misconduct in office, and furnishing contraband to inmates.
Gov. Nikki Haley appointed Robert Lee to serve the rest of Parker’s term, which will be up in November. And Parker, who claims he is innocent of the charges, is one of six candidates who have filed to run for sheriff of Chesterfield County in the upcoming primary election June 10.
Judge Lee Alford of the York and Union counties Circuit, is presiding over the trial. He was diligent in his intent to provide a fair and impartial trial. He asked a lot of questions Monday, many of them repeatedly, of potential jurors.
Not only did the jurors have to be unfamiliar with the case, Parker and his family members, they also could not have ties to any of the lawyers or nearly 50 witnesses that may be called to the stand. In the late afternoon Monday, one potential juror learned quickly that attitude in Judge Alford’s court will not be tolerated.
Apparently tired of answering questions, the juror told Alford, “I don’t have time for this (expletive).”
“Lock him up,” were the next words uttered by Alford. “I didn’t come here for anyone to argue with me.”
The juror was immediately removed for the courtroom and spent the night in jail.
One of the original 15 jurors selected Monday, one man was excused by the judge on Tuesday morning, leaving just two alternates. The jury consists of six white men, one black man, five white women, and two black women.
The opening arguments were led by the prosecution.
One of the lead prosecutors told the court that “finances, firearms and freedom,” are the pivotal aspects of this case.
The state hopes to prove that Parker’s term in office “became all about the power.”
A sharp contrast, she said, from his original campaign slogan in 2002, which was, “It’s not about the power, it’s about the people.”
Defense lawyer Johnny Gasser said Tuesday marked “a great day for Sam Parker.”
A great day, he said, because Parker’s side of the story could now be heard.
“Contracts, regulations and policies,” Gasser said, “are what they didn’t tell you about.”
Gasser claims that Parker’s only crime was “failing to keep appropriate records.” Once all of the truth has been told, he said, “charges should be dismissed.”
The trial is expected to continue through next week.
— Karen Kissiah can be reached at 843-537-5261.