A Westmoreland County jury pool fielded questions about their personal gambling habits as jurors were selected Monday in a trial against an attorney accused of violating state gambling laws by operating Texas Hold 'Em tournaments.
It took an entire day for District Attorney John Peck and defense attorney David Millstein to screen 50 potential questions. Jurors will hear opening arguments this morning in the case before Judge Richard E. McCormick Jr.
Millstein is defending attorney Larry Burns, 65, of Derry, who is facing misdemeanor charges of running illegal poker tournaments in Seward and Hempfield in 2007. Burns is accused of running the games for profit and not for charitable purposes, where proceeds are turned over to nonprofit groups
Millstein argues that the state gambling law is vague and does not specify poker as a prohibited offense. Burns contends poker is a game of skill, so it cannot be considered gambling.
Only a handful of potential jurors said they object to gambling. Most reported they had played cards, gambled while playing poker and often watched poker tournaments on television.
A lot of the people said they played in the Navy or at college, which is not too surprising," Peck said.
A middle-aged woman, who was not chosen, said she had moral, ethical and religious concerns about all forms of gambling.
"I think gambling can devastate families and the community," she said.
Another unsuccessful panelist said he thinks poker involves skill.
"It's a game of skill. It involves statistics, probability and watching peoples' faces," he said.
After exhausting the 50-member pool to come up with 12 jurors and one alternate, attorneys for both sides decided to waive selecting a second alternate, as is customary, so the trial can begin.