Jury seated in trial of former Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels

·3 min read

A jury has been selected in the trial of former Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels.

Daniels is charged with two felonies and five misdemeanors stemming from an investigation into an extra marital affair Daniels had with a JSO corrections officer.

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More than 300 potential jurors were summoned initially, but only about 200 showed up Monday.

Those 200 were whittled down to roughly 100 after an initial screening.

A group of 48 was brought in for additional questioning.

Of those 48, at least 30 knew about the case, with eight being dismissed for having formulated opinions on the case.

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One of those identified herself as a Clay County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher, who was hired around the time of Daniels’ arrest.

She said she fielded numerous calls from around the country hostile to the agency as a result of the arrest and even considered quitting because of them.

The judge, prosecution and defense asked the remaining 40 a wide range of questions, including their feelings toward law enforcement, whether they’ve had family members convicted of crimes and whether they believe the law should apply evenly to everyone — even a former sheriff.

It took roughly eight and half hours before the final panel was selected.

The six jurors are made up of two older white females, a middle-aged woman of Asian descent, a middle-aged white woman and a younger Black male and an older Black male.

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Most of the jurors indicated they’d heard of the case prior to Monday.

Action News Jax Law and Safety expert Dale Carson said in this case, it was likely jurors would have some prior knowledge.

“You can put people on panel that know about the case as long as they acknowledge and the defense and the prosecution agree, that that person can be seated on the panel if they can arrive at decision based on evidence and not bias,” said Carson.

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Daniels is charged with two felonies including evidence destroying and attempted evidence destroying.

He’s also charged with five counts of giving false information to a law enforcement officer, all misdemeanors.

The charges stem from an investigation into Daniels’ relationship with Cierra Smith, a JSO corrections officer.

Smith was allegedly Daniels’ mistress while he worked as head of the Duval County Jail.

Daniels is accused of ordering deputies to arrest Smith in 2019, accusing her of stalking him.

Smith was released from custody without being charged.

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“Whether he’s guilty or not is another matter entirely. But when elected officials or even appointed officials take advantage, are proven to have taken advantage of the system which they monitor, then clearly they have taken advantage of all of us,” said Carson.

Daniels dismissed his arrest as ‘dirty politics’ in a speech he gave the year of his arrest, as it came during his bid for reelection.

“One thing I take ownership as a man is my failures as a husband. That has nothing to do with me as a sheriff,” said Daniels in the 2020 speech.

Carson said Daniels is facing up to 15 years if convicted of all charges, but he doesn’t expect the former sheriff will receive a maximum sentence.

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“He could end up with not guilty or he could end up guilty and serving probation. So, it all depends on how the trial goes and what the jury finds after they’ve listened to the evidence,” said Carson.

The trial is set to begin Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m.

It’s expected to last four days.

We’ll be at the Clay County Courthouse providing you with updates throughout the week on air and online.

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