PRESTON — Jurors have been selected in the trial of a Preston Junior High School biology teacher accused of misdemeanor animal cruelty.
More than 60 potential jurors packed the Franklin County Courthouse Thursday morning on the first day of trial for Robert Crosland, who allegedly fed a live puppy to a snapping turtle in front of students at the school in March.
Oneida County Magistrate Judge David Hooste, Idaho Deputy Attorney General David Morse and defense attorneys for Crosland, Shane Reichert and Stratton Laggis, spent the day interviewing potential jurors.
Both Morse and Reichert questioned jury candidates about a range of topics, from speeding tickets to the euthanasia of pets and the hunting of wild animals. They also sought candidates’ views on animal cruelty, what constitutes suffering and public perception surrounding the trial.
It took all day to select the jury. The trial began at 8:30 a.m., and jurors were sworn in just before 5:30 p.m.
The selection process appeared to be arduous for some. One candidate dozed off. Others used their coats as blankets in the chilly second-floor courtroom.
Hooste acknowledged Thursday’s lengthy proceedings at least twice, attributing the slow selection process to the case’s notoriety.
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“I know this is just a misdemeanor case, but it’s had a significant impact on the community,” Hooste said.
In July, Crosland pleaded not guilty to one count of animal cruelty. The allegation and resulting investigation from the Idaho Attorney General’s Office caught the ire of concerned citizens from across the country, snagged national headlines and prompted a statement from animal-rights group PETA.
Weeks after the story went viral, some Preston parents wanted Crosland back in the classroom. Despite being charged for the crime, Crosland returned to the classroom last school year.
Franklin County Magistrate Judge Eric Hunn was scheduled to preside over the case but recused himself in June, citing a conflict of interest involving family members’ relationships with Crosland. The case was assigned to Hooste.
The trial is scheduled to reconvene Friday at 9 a.m.
Check back here for details from Friday’s trial.