Thirteen local jurors were selected Friday morning in Putnam Superior Court to serve as the jury to hear the case of Joseph Grant Everroad, 50, who is charged with armed robbery and theft in robbery of the First Merchants Bank in Morgantown.
The third floor of the courthouse was teeming with people Friday morning as the 50-person juror pool was called in for the jury selection process in front of Morgan Superior Court Judge G. Thomas Gray.
"When they got here," Putnam Superior Court Judge Denny Bridges observed, "they had no idea it was for a trial in Morgan County."
Among the Putnam people who will be making the four-day road trip are a teacher, a hospital social services provider, a hospice care worker and a FedEx employee, Judge Gray indicated.
The judge said the 13 jurors (which includes one alternate) will be picked up every morning and returned each evening beginning Monday. Court will run daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., he said.
"We'll pick them up every morning, feed them lunch every day and bring them back every night," Gray explained. "We anticipate the trial lasting four days."
The judge explained that court officials deemed it simpler to transport jurors daily from Putnam County to Martinsville than to hold the trial in Greencastle and bring over the large number of witnesses the attorneys intend to call in the case.
"It's kind of an unusual type of thing," Judge Gray agreed, "but it happens every once in a while.
"This case got some local publicity, so the attorneys got together and agreed that a change of venue was appropriate."
So they came to Putnam County to pick the jurors to decide the fate of Everroad, who was on probation for a 1988 Shelby County murder when he allegedly committed the bank robbery.
Just after 9 a.m. on June 4, the suspect reportedly displayed a handgun and demanded money from a teller at the Morgantown bank. Police say he left the scene in a black Honda car, eastbound on Ind. 135 toward Trafalgar.
Everroad was arrested and charged in the case on July 6.
Judge Gray said he has seen the traveling jury in action two or three times previously, including for a Bloomfield murder case about 15 years ago.
In July 2011, Gray was in the midst of picking a Clay County jury in a Brazil courtroom that would travel back and forth to Morgan County. The jurors were being tabbed to consider the fate of Michael Phelps, a 16-year-old Martinsville boy who allegedly shot classmate Chance Jackson, 15, at Martinsville Middle School in March 2001. However, a last-minute motion to request a bench trial halted those jury-selection proceedings.
As far as choosing Putnam County for the Everroad jury pool, both sides agreed to the move, Gray said.
"We figured nobody in Putnam County would know about the case," Judge Gray reasoned, adding, "I'm a Putnam County boy at heart. My father was from Greencastle, my grandfather was born in Quincy and my great-uncle had a medical practice in Cloverdale."
In addition, Gray gradated from DePauw University and did his student-teaching at North Putnam High School in 1970.
"And Denny and I are former second cousins-in-law," he said in reference to Judge Bridges in whose court Gray presided for the unusual events on Friday.