Jury selected for Criner trial

Megan Menchaca

The remaining members of the jury were chosen Tuesday for the trial of Meechaiel Criner, the 20-year-old indicted on capital murder charges in connection with the death of dance freshman Haruka Weiser.

Over 140 prospective jurors have appeared before the 167th District Court during the past two days, as attorneys attempted to find 12 members and two alternates to serve on the jury for the trial, which begins Wednesday.

Six women and three men in the jury pool were selected on Monday. On Tuesday, one woman and two men were chosen as the remaining three jurors while one woman and one man were chosen as the two alternates for the trial.

To narrow down the pool on Tuesday, the judge, the defense attorneys and the prosecution reviewed the jury questionnaires and promptly dismissed over 20 potential jurors. Nearly all of the people initially dismissed said their belief that Criner was guilty would influence their ability to be a fair and impartial juror.

“You can not be fair if you have a bias,” defense attorney Ariel Payan said during the jury selection. “(Getting rid of a bias) can be extraordinarily hard and in some cases, impossible.”

The attorneys then discussed the charges in the indictment in detail with the remaining prospective jurors before striking or dismissing the majority of the jury pool. Many of the dismissed jurors said they were uncomfortable with the mandatory life sentence or their lack of knowledge about criminal law.

“There’s nothing about this situation that ought to make you comfortable,” presiding Judge David Wahlberg said during the jury selection. “The jury is going to be called on to make hard decisions.”

Criner was indicted by a Travis County grand jury in June 2016. The indictment accuses Criner of killing Weiser by strangulation with a ligature, as well as of other charges including sexual assault, kidnapping and robbery. Because he was a minor at the time of the offense, Criner could face life in prison with the possibility of parole in 40 years if convicted of capital murder.