Federal bath salts trial in Marquette

An Upper Peninsula man is on trial this week on several federal drug charges. Cameras are not allowed inside federal courtrooms, but ABC 10 News Now senior reporter Mike Hoey was in U.S. District Court in Marquette for the first day of the proceeding.

Scott Bernard Will was arrested in Houghton in April. He’s facing a five-count federal indictment involving the synthetic drug commonly known as bath salts.

The counts include distributing bath salts, possessing them with the intent to distribute and conspiracy either to distribute them or to possess them with the intent to distribute.

Will’s trial began Monday morning with jury selection. “Is there a science to it (jury selection)? Probably not,” defense counsel Mark Dobias of Sault Ste. Marie said. “Is it an educated guess? Probably. Some experience (is) involved, some blind luck and some intuition.”

The gallery of U.S. District Judge R. Allen Edgar’s courtroom was filled with prospective jurors. Every prospective juror that was summoned to the courthouse for the case was called to the jury box. In fact, one gentleman was called more than once, and he ended up being seated on the jury.

In all, 45 potential jurors were summoned. Judge Edgar dismissed 14 of them. One of the 14 told the court that his stepson is being held in the Dickinson County Jail as a result of a bath salts investigation. He felt he could not be fair and impartial.

Eighteen potential jurors were dismissed because of peremptory challenges, which are exclusions from the jury pool that attorneys for either side can make without having to give the court a reason.

“You have to be able to understand who’s in the jury pool,” Dobias said. “You have jury questionnaires; you review the jury questionnaires, and then as the jurors are selected, you make your choices from there.”

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Maarten Vermaat and Paul Lochner made 10 peremptory challenges. Dobias made 8 of them.

A jury of 9 women and 3 men was seated at about noon Monday with a male alternate. Prosecution testimony began Monday afternoon, and the trial is expected to last all week.