Jury assigned and attorneys make opening statements in day one of Glenn Wheet trial
Jury selection began around 11:44am. The juror pool was selected out of Kosciusko County, but several of them were familiar with details of the case, either by hearing about it through word of mouth or seeing videos of Wheet's car hitting demonstrators online.
Judge John Marnocha noted the difficulty in avoiding information about the case, having occurred in a small community, and reassured the jury that having prior knowledge is not bad-- but their ultimate responsibility is to remain impartial to deliver a fair verdict. He told them "In the end, it will actually be your job to judge the case."
However, some of the jurors argued they could not reconcile their own biases, and would not be impartial.
Of the near forty potential jurors, eight were selected shortly after 1:30pm, and the court took a short break for lunch.
Proceedings resumed at 2:30pm, with both sides making their opening statements. Neither denied that Wheet was behind the wheel of the SUV, they argued over his intentions for crossing onto the Main Street Bridge.
Protesters had gathered on the Main Street Bridge in Mishawaka on July 4, 2020, and police had set out cones to divert traffic. According to the prosecution, all other traffic had followed the cones and diverted away from the bridge. Wheet approached the bridge but initially turned on Front Street-- away from the bridge, as the other cars had-- but then turned around and drove onto the bridge, driving over two rows of orange traffic cones and hit four of the protesters before he drove off.
The state charged Wheet with criminal recklessness for using his vehicle as a deadly weapon and inflicting bodily harm.
Wheet's defense attorney argued that while there were cones on the bridge, there were no signs saying the bridge was closed, and that Wheet-- with his son in the passenger seat-- drove up to the crowd to see if they would let him through, as he was trying to get home after doing some shopping. As he approached, he was surrounded by the demonstrators, and then-- fearing for his and his son's safety-- drove slowly through the crowds, who were then banging on his car with fists.
The defense argued that Wheet had no other option but to drive forward, and that he fully cooperated with police after what happened. They then argued that the protesters were on the bridge illegally, as they never got permits for their demonstration.
The state presented video evidence showing Glenn Wheet's SUV hitting protesters-- before calling one of them to the stand.
Trevor Davis had actually been dragged by Wheet's Chevy Traverse; he says he lost his footing as Wheet's SUV started to move, and he instinctively grabbed Wheet's passenger side mirror and held on as he feared he would be run over if he let go. Eventually, he lost his grip, and landed on the pavement, with road rash all over his lower back and legs and a head injury.
He says it took months before he could walk again.
On cross examination, Davis did not deny pounding on Wheet's car-- he argued he did it to get Wheet's attention and was "desperate" to get him to stop his car, which was still moving, albeit slowly. Davis said there were children and people with crutches in the crowd, and he didn't want them to get hurt.
Judge Marnocha called for recess shortly after 4:30pm.
The trial is set to resume Wednesday at 10:00am.