Rep. Bill Janklow, a towering figure in South Dakota politics for three decades, went on trial Monday in his boyhood hometown on a manslaughter charge stemming from an August crash that killed a motorcyclist from Minnesota.
A jury of nine women and four men was seated Monday afternoon despite a selection process that revealed Janklow's enormous popularity and the difficulty of finding impartial jurors in a small town where everyone knows each other.
"This case scares me," assistant prosecutor Roger Ellyson said. "It scares me because the defendant is so well known, and this is his hometown — a fact I'm reminded of every time I drive into town."
Green signs are posted on the roads entering town, telling people that Flandreau is the congressman's hometown.
Opening statements were planned for late Monday afternoon. Testimony was scheduled to begin Tuesday morning with prosecution witnesses.
Prosecutors have a list of 25 possible witnesses, including Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, who was with Janklow at an event in Aberdeen before the accident.
Janklow's attorneys will argue a medical condition may have played a role, but this is a case where Janklow's own words could come back to haunt him reports CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers.
Speaking publicly in 1999, Janklow said, "Bill Janklow speeds when he drives. Shouldn't but he does. And when he gets the ticket he pays it."
Records show he has paid 16 times since 1990. Even though the court won't allow those tickets in evidence, Bowers reports some potential jurors had already made up their minds.
"I couldn't put that aside plain and simple," one said. "I just think he's guilty."
Other potential jurors were asked whether they could hear the case despite Janklow's popularity.
One potential juror said he has "a close friendship, relationship with Mr. Janklow." After being excused, the man walked over and shook hands with the former four-term governor on his way out the door. Another said he knows Janklow's mother and his family.
In addition, about a half-dozen potential jurors knew lead prosecutor Bill Ellingson from church, and many of those who were excused said they had ongoing or recent business with him.
Janklow, dressed in a blue suit and tie, wrote down the potential jurors' names during the selection. He appeared relaxed and had his pen in his hand most of the time. Janklow rarely spoke to his lawyer.
Circuit Judge Rodney Steele told potential jurors the case likely will take five to seven days. All the potential jurors stared at Janklow as he entered the courtroom. His wife, Mary Dean Janklow, and son, Russ, sat behind him.
Janklow, 64, is charged with second-degree manslaughter, speeding, running a stop sign and reckless driving for an Aug. 16 collision that killed Randy Scott, 55, of Hardwick, Minn. The accident occurred near Trent at a rural intersection surrounded by flat corn and soybean fields.
The trial threatens to derail the career of a man who is nothing short of a political icon in South Dakota. The blunt, tough-talking Janklow served as attorney general for four years in the 1970s and another 16 years as governor before being elected to South Dakota's lone house seat last year.
Flandreau, population about 2,500, is Janklow country, reports CBS News Correspondent Jennifer Donelan, but residents believe fair should be fair even for a political giant.
"I do not think he will get special treatment because of who he is," said Flandreau resident Mark McGloden.
If convicted of manslaughter, the maximum punishment is 10 years in prison. It would also prompt the House ethics committee to investigate.
The committee's rules say representatives who plead guilty or are convicted of a crime that carries two or more years in prison should refrain from voting or taking part in committee meetings in the chamber until their record is cleared or until re-elected.
The ethics committee could also recommend a House resolution reprimanding him, censuring him or even expelling him, though the House rarely expels members. After Ohio Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. was convicted in federal court last year for bribery, racketeering and tax evasion, he became only the second House member to be expelled since the Civil War.
Potential jurors were also questioned about motorcycles, diabetes and their knowledge of the rural intersection where the crash occurred.
Court documents have suggested that Janklow may offer a medical defense. Janklow may have suffered a diabetic reaction about the time of the crash, according to medical records filed by prosecutors.
One man said he has taken insulin for 15 years and seldom has problems controlling his blood sugar. Another said he takes medication for his diabetes, while others have close family members with the disease.
One man said he takes Atenolol, the same medication Janklow takes. That would not keep him from serving, he said, but he added that his relationship with Janklow's mother and other family members would.
Janklow's lawyer, Ed Evans, also asked potential jurors if they rode motorcycles. Several said they did but that it would not affect them as jurors. They were allowed to stay in the jury pool.
One woman whose daughter was hurt by a speeder and is still recovering after 11 surgeries said she would not be a fair juror and was excused.