- By Jonathan Tilove American-Statesman Staff
A Travis County jury of seven women and five men was seated Monday to hear the child custody case of Alex Jones and his ex-wife, Kelly Jones. The process of selecting jurors was slowed by dim views of the provocative broadcaster held by a significant minority of the jury pool.
Opening statements will begin Tuesday morning in the Travis County Courthouse in downtown Austin. Alex Jones is expected to testify on Tuesday. The trial is open to the public.
Twenty of the 60 or so people in the Travis County jury pool indicated with a show of hands that they have a negative impression of Alex Jones, with 13 of those potential jurors suggesting that they would find it hard to be fair to the man whose lawyer described him as a “provocateur” who espouses what “some would say are outrageous positions.”
In a pretrial hearing, Alex Jones’ attorney Randall Wilhite said that his client’s “performance art” does not reflect on his parenting and shouldn’t be held against him in determining custody. In addressing the potential jurors Monday, he said that Jones’ “performance art” is “powerful and aggressive and strong and takes strident positions on controversial issues.”
In answer to a question from Robert Hoffman, representing Kelly Jones, all but two of the jurors said they would be suspicious of someone who said “vile” things on the air but maintained that it had nothing to do with who he or she is at home.
About 30 of the potential jurors said they knew something of Alex Jones and his Infowars radio and online show — Jones’ global audience numbers in the millions — but only two said they were listeners, and only one regularly.
Both Alex Jones, dressed in a dark suit with a white shirt open at the collar, and Kelly Jones, dressed in a black dress with a pink sweater, were present throughout the proceeding on opposite sides of the courtroom.
Alex and Kelly Jones were divorced in 2015. Their three children — a 14-year-old son and 9- and 12-year-old daughters — live with Alex Jones in what her attorneys describe as a “fortress” in Austin. Kelly Jones, who also lives in Austin, has limited visitation with the children.
Alex Jones’ reputation slowed the voir dire process, as jurors were brought, one by one, to the bench to answer questions in a courtroom whisper by state District Judge Orlinda Naranjo and lawyers and jury experts for both sides.
Naranjo began the day with ambitions to complete jury selection and move to opening statements Monday. But by early afternoon, she indicated she was merely hoping to finish assembling a jury by day’s end, and the task was completed after 6 p.m.
Because of Alex Jones’ celebrity/notoriety, the judge assembled an especially large jury pool. But what began as a call of 72 people was reduced with a handful of no-shows and the dismissal of a few other jurors who said that a two-week trial would pose an undue economic hardship.
Before jury selection began, the day got off to a discordant note with Wilhite complaining to the judge that the two Jones daughters had returned home from spending Easter with their mother saying that she had spent the day on the phone with reporters, “screaming at them” about what to write.
It is, Wilhite said, “a direct and serious violation of your gag order.”
Hoffman, representing Kelly Jones, objected that she had had plenty of opportunities before the gag order was imposed last week to “spread this case around the entire world and she didn’t,” and said it sounded to him as if the girls were being coached by their father. Hoffman will argue that Alex Jones has systematically turned their children against her.
Naranjo said she will secure cellphone records for Alex and Kelly Jones for a possible look at breaches of a gag order she issued last week.