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Tonya Craft: Teacher on Trial (Day One)

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Potential jurors gather outside courthouse Monday. Potential jurors gather outside courthouse Monday.
Craft leaves court Monday (Courtesy: Chattanooga Times Free Press) Craft leaves court Monday (Courtesy: Chattanooga Times Free Press)

MONDAY, APRIL 12

Follow WRCB's Melydia Clewell and Callie Starnes on Twitter. Get updates from the field and courthouse at Facebook.com/WRCBtv. Legal analysis on-air from WRCB Legal Analyst McCracken Poston.

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Update 5:45 p.m.

Day one is complete without a jury being seated. Jury selection continues in the morning. Approximately 100 left to question.

Update 5:00 p.m.

Jurors given a 15 min break. Judge says jury selection could last at least another hour. The goal is to finish today.

Nearly 500 Catoosa County residents summoned to jury duty. Some left as quickly as they entered. One man told Channel 3 it was standing room only. He was familiar with the Craft case and was dismissed.

Another man was dismissed despite calling himself "a good candidate because I didn't know anything about it until today."

The potential jurors took a questionnaire, with hopes of narrowing the pool. Approximately six residents have been dismissed because of knowledge or involvement in other child molestation cases. Others were dismissed because of job obligations or family ties to people involved with the trial.

The judge is looking for 12 jurors and two alternates.

Update 2:48 p.m.

Media still not allowed in courtroom. Gag order says no reporters during jury selection. Still 200 jurors to sift through.

Update 1:42 p.m.

The judge's gag order prevents camera coverage of jury selection during voir dire process. Our crews will have limited opportunities to bring you video today. We can shoot from across the street using private property.

Update 12:50 p.m.

Early estimates are that jury selection could last into Tuesday. The voir dire process can be lengthy on a case like this. Selected jurors are generally subjected to a system of examination whereby both the prosecution and defense can object to a juror. Voir dire can include both general questions asked of an entire pool of prospective jurors, answered by means such as a show of hands, and questions asked of individual prospective jurors and calling for a verbal answer.

Update 12:30 p.m.

Jurors dismissed for lunch. One told to go home, related by marriage to one of alleged victims in the case.

Television crew from another station almost banned from courtroom for taping promotional teases on courthouse lawn. Judge says he is serious about his rule of no cameras on courthouse square. He's worried about potential jurors' faces making it on the news.

Update 12:20 p.m.

Local attorney allowed to remain in jury pool for now despite having family member who is the ex-husband of Tonya Craft.

Update 11:52 a.m.

Reporter Callie Starnes just talked to two dismissed jurors. One says they have never heard of Tonya Craft. The other could list all of the charges she's facing.

Judge may allow trial to spill into Saturday which would mean OT for officers in courthouse, attorneys, etc.

Update 11:25 a.m.

Standing room only in Catoosa County courthouse. Our reporters, who had to leave their camera phones at security, tell us that halls are lined with potential jurors, witnesses, supporters of both sides.

Roll call for jurors is underway. It could be early afternoon before attorneys have a chance to question and select a jury.

Update 10:46 a.m.

The defense team for Tonya Craft files motion challenging jury array, list of jurors who are summoned to appear for jury duty. Defense says judge removed potential jurors from pool outside of open court.

Update 10:40 a.m.

Potential jurors can be seen lined up outside of the courthouse. Parking is limited. It will certainly be a crowded day.

Update 10:15 a.m.

To make room for extra potential jurors, the judge has asked the media to temporarily leave the courtroom.

Update 10:00 a.m.

The Catoosa County courthouse is packed this morning as approximately 300 potential jurors have been called. Courthouse security guards will not allow the media to take cell phones inside the building. The judge is concerned about camera phones sending pictures. Judge House is allowing one pool camera to cover the case, with stipulations.

Updated 9:30 a.m.

CATOOSA COUNTY (WRCB) - McCracken Poston has joined the Channel 3 Eyewitness News team as Legal Analyst. The four-term legislator and attorney will provide exclusive insight into the Tonya Craft trial from gavel to gavel. Poston is a life-long resident of Catoosa County and knows most of the players in this case. His analysis of the legal system from jury selection to verdict will help Channel 3 viewers understand the proceedings.

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