A jury of seven women and five men was selected Monday in a sexual assault case against a Conway doctor accused of inappropriately touching several patients.
Robert Burl Rook, 62, sat quietly next to his attorneys Patrick Benca and John Kennedy as the defense counsel and special prosecutors Jason Barrett and Ashley Bowen questioned several Faulkner County residents during the first day of his scheduled two-week trial.
Potential jurors grew slightly antsy during the voir dire — jury selection process — as they wiped sweat from their brows due to the rising temperatures in the crowded courtroom as maintenance staff worked to fix a busted air conditioner during the majority of Monday's hearing.
By the end of the day, the indoor temperatures had cooled and both parties had settled on a jury made up of seven women and five men, with two female and two male alternates.
Benca and Barrett both stressed the importance of listening to all witnesses who are scheduled to testify during Rook's trial and reminded them to consider all evidence presented when determining their verdict next week.
County residents were questioned on their abilities to stay impartial and to allow the evidence, not their opinions, guide their decisions in this case against a Conway doctor faced with 11 counts of second-degree sexual assault and 10 counts of third-degree sexual assault.
One potential juror was excused from the selection process after he confessed he would be unable to put his opinions on the mater to the side after learning 10 women would eventually take to the stand and testify against Rook.
Those who were selected to sit as jurors during this two-week sexual assault trial each agreed to set their personal opinions to the side and review all the evidence presented before them.
"His life is in your hands," Benca said at one point during the voir dire, referring to the impact the jury's future decision has on his client.
After selecting a jury, prosecutors and Rook's attorneys also discussed the defense's intent to cross examine one of the state's witnesses.
Benca and Kennedy said they plan to question the witness to determine her credibility.
Bowen said she did not agree with the defense asking the alleged victim about her medical history, noting whether the woman had an STD and whether she was diagnosed with an STD at Rook's office was irrelevant to the trial at hand.
Kennedy said the defense has no intent to embarrass the woman or determine if she has an STD, noting the defense counsel plans to determine whether her accounts of the alleged crime are consistent. Kennedy said he is concerned on his client's behalf about this particular witness because she shows to have conflicting stories regarding her memory of whether she requested Rook to perform an STD test on her.
Circuit Judge Charles "Ed" Clawson ultimately ruled in the defense's favor under the circumstances that Rook's attorneys question the witness "only to establish credibility."
Rook's trial is set to reconvene at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Faulkner County Circuit Court.
The trial will begin with opening statements by both parties.
Barrett said he expects to call 10 witnesses to testify on the state's behalf Tuesday.