The Office of the Attorney General has informed the court that it intends to oppose Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ recent motion requesting a jury pool comprising jurors from Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and the Northern Islands.
During a case management conference last Monday, OAG chief solicitor Robert Glass informed Superior Court judge pro tem Alberto Tolentino that he intends to submit an opposition to Torres’ request for the court to select jurors from the entire CNMI voter registration list. This means voters not just on Saipan but also on Tinian, Rota, and the Northern Islands.
Tolentino gave Glass until June 20, to file his opposition.
According to the motion filed by Viola Alepuyo on behalf of Torres, the CNMI is a small, close-knit community where it is easy for jurors to be swayed by extrajudicial information and personal considerations.
“This is especially so for Gov. Torres. Gov. Torres was elected by a majority of voters from across the CNMI in 2014 and 2018. As governor of the CNMI, Gov. Torres deals with all the islands. The policies he makes also apply to every island. Furthermore, some of the trips referenced in this case deal with trips to the other islands. Because Gov. Torres’ work deals directly with all of the islands, it is difficult for the members of the small knit communities not to have an opinion of the governor,” the lawyer stated.
In addition, Torres’ counsel said that recent impeachment proceedings, lawsuits, and now criminal charges make it impossible for all CNMI voters to remain unbiased.
“To exacerbate this issue, Torres’ recent impeachment and resulting lawsuits, the criminal charges filed against him, and all of the resulting publicity have made it nearly impossible for all the CNMI voters to come up with an unbiased opinion of him. This may make it difficult to find a sufficient number of unbiased jurors,” she said.
The most practical method of ensuring a sufficiently large jury pool is to draw jurors from all the islands and not just Saipan, she said.
“Although a defendant does not have the right to be tried by a particular jury, that defendant is still entitled to a fair and impartial jury. The need for judicial economy weighs in favor of having a larger jury pool,” she said.
Back in April 8, 2022, the Office of the Attorney General filed criminal charges against Torres alleging 12 counts of misconduct in public office and one count of theft relating to the issuance of airline tickets for premium class travel for himself and/or first lady Diann T. Torres. The governor was also accused of contempt for failure to appear in compliance with a legislative subpoena.
The jury trial was initially supposed to begin on July 5 but the date has since been converted into a trial scheduling conference.