Jury selection to begin
By KELI JACOBI News-Times Staff Jury selection begins today in Union County Circuit Court in the state’s case against the former chief deputy prosecutor who faces one felony count of thirddegree sexual assault.
Attorney Robert Depper has denied any wrongdoing on behalf of his client, Joe Wray, 51, since the charge was filed more than a year ago. Wray formally waived arraignment and pleaded not guilty in December.
Circuit Judge Robert Edwards will preside over the trial following Judge Hamilton H. Singleton’s request to recuse late last year. Edward’s jurisdiction covers both White and Prairie counties in the east-central portion of the state.
The state also alleges two misdemeanor counts of public sexual indecency against Wray, who abruptly resigned his position on Feb. 7, 2005.
Sixth Judicial District Chief Deputy Prosecutor Larry Jegley of Little Rock was assigned to handle the state’s charges.
He agreed to a request for a gag order by Depper in early December.
In that request, Depper indicated that heightened public interest might prejudice a local jury pool and that a gag order would ensure individuals avoid any "attempt to try this case in the public press and not the courtroom."
Wray was hired as the chief deputy prosecutor in January 1999. He worked as the chief deputy prosecutor in the 10 th Judicial District before coming to Union County.
Caren Harp was appointed to the chief deputy position immediately after Wray’s resignation, a position she held from 1993 to 1999, before working as a senior attorney at the American Prosecutors Research Institute in Alexandria, Va., and as an assistant attorney general in Little Rock.