Brandon Vandenburg listened in a courtroom here Wednesday as at least six people said they believed he was guilty of raping an unconscious woman in 2013.
Those six were among 98 people who were dismissed from a pool of potential jurors being vetted to hear Vandenburg’s retrial in Nashville. The jury is expected to be chosen Thursday with the trial set for Monday in Nashville.
Vandenburg and three other men were charged with raping the woman in June 2013 while they were football players at Vanderbilt University. Vandenburg was initially found guilty in January 2015 but a judge later declared a mistrial.
Jurors dismissed Wednesday gave reasons that showed two things: Serving on a sequestered, out-of-town jury was a hardship for many, and their attention was still on the rape that occurred nearly three years ago and propelled national discussion of how colleges respond to sexual assault.
“I would find him guilty and I would like to see the most severe charge brought on him,” Juror 115 said. She was dismissed.
More than 160 Shelby County residents were called as potential jurors in the case. One woman arrived in tears, saying she had anxiety. Of the 98 people dismissed, 82 said they had hardships and 16 said they had heard about the case before.
Of the 16, six said they believed Vandenburg was guilty. The others said they could not set aside what they had already heard. Three other people who heard about the case said they could be impartial. Those three potential jurors will return to court Thursday.
Jury selection was held on the fifth-floor of the Shelby County criminal justice building, a rectangular fortress about a mile north of the city’s bustling Beale Street.
Vandenburg, 22, and his mother and twin brothers attended. His father also was briefly in court. They live in California.
Nashville Criminal Court Judge Monte Watkins excused potential jurors who had hardships like trips planned to Belize, Jamaica and Gatlinburg. He excused people who were caregivers for ailing family members. He excused entrepreneurs whose small businesses depended on them.
Jurors walked one-at-a-time into the 1980s-esque courtroom with short, green-carpeted partitions and dark wood paneling. Though vetting nearly 100 of them took more than 5 hours, it brought moments of humor.
Juror 90 carried an overstuffed legal-size envelope.
“That’s your excuse you’re carrying?” Watkins said with a smile. The woman said it was doctor’s appointments.
Juror 41 had a medical condition, and two dogs to care for.
“One is 17 years old, he really needs me,” she said, showing Watkins a photograph.
“You brought the evidence with you,” Watkins replied, drawing a chuckle from lawyers and a handful of people in the courtroom.
Juror 113 said she starts a new job with TruGreen Lawn Care on Monday.
Watkins said the company sends him advertisements about doing his lawn.
“You want it for free?” the woman joked.
About 60 people waiting their turn were dismissed for the day and given two-page questionnaires, asking about their children, social media usage, past arrests and experience in courtrooms.
Those questions are routine in jury selection, though the lawyers don’t typically get written responses.
Defense lawyers sought the questionnaires. An issue with a juror’s honesty led to a mistrial nearly a year ago. Another ex-player, Cory Batey, went to trial a second time and was found guilty in April. Two other men, Brandon E. Banks and Jaborian "Tip" McKenzie, are awaiting their first trial.
Potential jurors will return to court at 10 a.m. Thursday.