GREAT WHITE Nightclub Fire: State Used Mock Jury, Consultant To Prepare For DERDERIAN Trials

Tracy Breton of The Providence Journal reports:

In preparing to try the Station fire case, the office of Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch spent about $70,000 of taxpayer money to hire a nationally renowned jury consultant who staged a mock trial so prosecutors could learn about the strengths and weaknesses of their case.

But neither the consultant nor Lynch's office will say what the jury verdict was after listening to the arguments presented in the one-day "focus session."

The consultant, Jeffrey T. Frederick, of Charlottesville, Va., says he is sworn to secrecy based on a confidentiality agreement he signed with Lynch's office.

Michael J. Healey, spokesman for the attorney general, says he will not discuss the mock jurors' verdict "because that gets to our office's internal work product and that's privileged."

Healey would not divulge anything about what the mock jurors told the prosecutors about the strength of their cases against the three men charged in connection with the fire that killed 100 people and injured more than 200 others. But he adamantly denied that the input from the mock jurors made prosecutors less eager to try the three defendants charged with the deaths. He said he wanted to make it clear that win or lose, Lynch wanted to see the cases go to trial "because he felt that he owed that to the victims and to the people of Rhode Island that there would be a trial."

None of the defendants charged in the case went to trial. Daniel M. Biechele, the tour manager for the rock band GREAT WHITE who set off pyrotechnics inside the nightclub, sparking the deadly blaze, pleaded guilty in May to 100 counts of involuntary-manslaughter for setting off fireworks without a permit. He is currently serving a four-year sentence in work-release.

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