Can Blank get a fair trial here?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 28, 1998

By LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / October 28, 1998

EDGARD – The hearing on whether to move Daniel Blank’s trial, which started Monday, will continue Nov. 9 before 40th Judicial District Judge J.Sterling Snowdy.

The hearing begins at 1 p.m.Blank is charged in St. John the Baptist Parish with the murders of Samand Louella Arcuri and Joan Brock in May 1997. Trial date is not yet set.According to Blank’s attorney, Glenn G. Cortello, “He never said a word tome, really. He just listened.”On Monday, Cortello and his co-counsel, Harold Van Dyke III, quizzed a sampling of St. John Parish residents to gauge the impact of reporting onthe case on potential jury selection. Appearing for the prosecution wereAssistant District Attorneys George Ann Graugnard and Charles Lorio.

Four panels of 14 people were questioned Monday as to how much they had read in newspapers, seen on television or discussed with other people the murders of Brock and the Arcuris.

“There was almost 100 percent saturation,” Cortello said afterward, adding there were a few more recent residents not as familiar with the case.

In addition, Cortello claimed, 80 percent of those questioned had already made up their minds about Blank’s guilt or innocence and could not put their preconceived notions about the case out of their minds.

Should Snowdy agree, the case could be relocated to another jurisdiction, or a jury could be empaneled elsewhere and bused here to try the case.

Cortello added many of the potential jurors also heard St. John SheriffWayne L. Jones’s announcement of Blank’s alleged confession, and theattorney said he may call Jones to the stand to testify Nov. 9.”It was a pretty well-read and well-discussed case,” Cortello observed.

Some jurors were outspoken about their beliefs in the case but illustrated the inter-connectiveness of the community. One was a childhoodacquaintance of Blank. Another was a friend of the Brocks. Still anotherwas a friend of the Arcuris, all from the first panel alone.

One, an LSU senior, testified how her parents urged her to stay in Baton Rouge during the initial scare after the murders.

Cortello also plans to argue to have Blank’s case removed from St. Jamesand Ascension parishes, where Blank also faces murder charges.

Cortello insists that Blank did not commit the crimes, that he is illiterate and had a problem understanding his legal rights.

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