Large Jury Pool Quizzed On First Day Of Helm Trial
SPOKANE — A pool of 100 potential jurors were in court Monday morning for the vehicular homicide trial for Cliff Helm, who is suspected of causing a crash in November 2005 that resulted in the deaths of five children.
All of the potential jurors were given a three-page juror questionnaire Monday that provided a window into how the defense will likely be approaching the case.
The questionnaire asked jurors to provide Judge Michael Price with information on what they previously knew about the case and hint at whether they would allow their emotions to override the facts in a crash that was so horrifying that at least one emergency responder had to leave the scene and others broke into tears.
“It is very important that jurors reach a verdict based solely upon the evidence admitted in the trial and the instructions of law,” one of the questions states. “Sympathy, emotion or prejudice should never be a factor in your deliberations.”
Previously Judge Price ruled that prosecutors could not show the brutal pictures from the collision scene, and they would not be allowed to over-emphasize the fact that five children were killed in the crash, nor could they discuss the emotional reaction from the first responders.
Other questions on the form related to cell phone use as related to vehicle collisions and in one of the more interesting questions jurors were asked “Have you, any family member, relative or close friend ever had any experience with, or witnessed a fainting episode?”
Being unconscious would explain why prosecutors say Helm never braked as he wove in and out of oncoming traffic, however Helm’s contention he was suffering from a syncopal episode probably could not justify his bad driving record.
In 2005, the year of the fatal crash, Helm was ticketed three times, twice for speeding and another citation for causing a wreck at Boone and Ruby. Just three months later Helm was involved the crash that killed the Schrock children.
Helm has also been sued for a read end wreck on Spokane’s South Hill. The jury won’t hear about Helm’s driving history behind the wheel as prior bad acts are not admissible as evidence.
Change of venue motions had been denied by a previous judge overseeing the case, but there’s the possibility that that decision will be revisited based on the answers to the questionnaire returned by the potential jurors.
Carmen, Jana, Carrine, Jerryl and Craig Schrock, whose ages ranged from 12 to two-years-old, were killed on November 1st, 2005 when a truck driven by Cliff Helm hit the truck their father was driving head-on. Only the children’s father Jeff Schrock survived the crash.