As the hush-money case involving former House Speaker Dennis Hastert moves toward opening day, the former speaker's attorney is proposing a questionnaire for potential jurors which asks not only about their potential biases, but also fears about serving on a jury during the era of COVID-19.
Hastert is being sued by a man identified in court documents only as James Doe, who says the former speaker still owes him some $1.8 million which he said he was promised in exchange for silence relating to a decades-old incident of sexual abuse.
It was Doe's original allegations which led to Hastert's conviction on financial crimes six years ago.
In a motion filed this week in Kendall County Circuit Court, attorney John Ellis noted the extensive pre-trial publicity in the case, extending to media across the United States.
"The nature and scope of the pre-trial publicity raises a substantial danger that a prospective juror may have already formed opinions as to the underlying allegations in this case," Ellis wrote.
Notbaly, he also raised concerns about jurors' fears about taking part in a trial amid renewed fears surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
"Do you have any underlying health condition(s) that make you nervous or apprehensive about serving as a juror due to covid-19?" the proposed questionnaire asks. Also, "Are you or anyone else in your household a first responder or health care worker?" And "Do you have any other reason relating to Covid-19 that would impact your ability to serve as a juror?"
The case has been the subject of repeated delays, during which numerous questions have been raised about Hastert's own physical health. The long-awaited trial is set for jury selection Sept.15th.