Who do you choose? Attorneys pick jury for Fresno Assembly member's abuse trial

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The people who will decide the fate of California Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula arrived in court Tuesday, but nobody knows yet exactly who they are.

Jury selection started Tuesday morning and will continue Wednesday in the misdemeanor child abuse case.

About 180 people walked into court on the seventh floor. About 60 will come back Wednesday and 14 of them could hold Dr. Arambula's future in their hands.

As Arambula and his attorneys sit in court, they face across the room to the most important seats in the house.

12 jurors and a couple of alternates will fill these blue seats and cast a different kind of ballot for the Fresno-based state assembly member.

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On Monday, lawyers started picking.

"Obviously the attorneys are looking for someone who's going to be biased to their case," said legal analyst Tony Capozzi. "There's no question about it. Both sides will be. But really what you're looking for is fair and impartial jurors."

Judge Alvin Harrell III dismissed dozens of potential jurors because they said they couldn't be fair and impartial or because of hardships, including one whose son works for the assembly member.

Capozzi says the key is looking for open minds, but as a defense attorney, he'd try to seat jurors as similar to his client as possible.

He'd favor parents, especially people with more than one child.

"I would ask them their experiences in disciplining their children," he said. "How do they discipline them? Do they at times get upset? Do they yell at them? Do they spank them? Have they ever slapped them?"

Arambula's 7-year-old daughter told police he slapped her on both sides of the head and his wedding ring left a mark on her face which was still visible when she went to school the next day.

His defense attorneys say the girl has a vivid imagination.

Arambula's political career could depend on the verdict and his medical career may be affected as well.

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A spokesperson for the state Medical Board tells me they're aware of the case and they'll conduct their own investigation.

"I don't see him losing his license in this case, even if he's convicted," Capozzi said. "There may be some kind of an inquiry. There may be a probationary period, if that."

Attorneys could finish picking a jury Wednesday and opening statements will follow on Thursday.

The trial is expected to take two weeks or less.
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