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Corbin jury questions begin today

LAWRENCEVILLE - Potential jurors in the Barton Corbin trial will fill out an extensive questionnaire today, detailing everything from their education level, marital status and religious affiliation to the television programs they watch and opinions they have formed, if any, about the case.

The 13-page questionnaire also delves into each juror's past experiences with the court system, law enforcement and mental health professionals.

A major concern for Corbin's lawyers is how the jury pool has been affected by pretrial publicity in the national and local media. About two pages of the questionnaire are devoted to that issue.

"Jury questionnaire allows us to get advanced warning as to what's going to be an issue in the voir dire process, so we can weed out people that are not going to be fair and impartial more quickly," said defense attorney David Wolfe.

Voir dire is the legal term for the process of questioning prospective jurors. The questionnaire will also allow jurors to state their answers privately without tainting the opinions of other jurors, Wolfe said.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said some jurors are more candid when writing down their thoughts than they would be voicing them in open court.

Corbin, a 42-year-old dentist who practiced in Dacula, is accused of killing his wife Jennifer Corbin, 33, on Dec. 4, 2004. She was found dead of a single gunshot wound to the head in their Buford home.

Corbin is also charged in Richmond County with the 1990 shooting death of Dorothy "Dolly" Hearn, his girlfriend and fellow student in dental school at Medical College of Georgia. Hearn, 27, also died of a single gunshot wound to the head. The case was initially ruled a suicide, but it was reopened after Jennifer Corbin's death.

Corbin has pleaded not guilty in both cases, and his lawyers contend that the two women committed suicide.

The questionnaire advises jurors:

"It is not at all improper for you to have read or heard about the case, to have discussed it with others, or to have thoughts and opinions about it. We simply need to know about your exposure to the case, and what your thoughts and opinions are, if any."

The fill-in-the-blank form also asks each juror what they recall hearing, seeing or reading about the case. It also specifically questions each juror's opinion of Barton Corbin.

Another part of the questionnaire addresses potential jurors' experiences with relationships formed over the Internet. Jennifer Corbin was reportedly involved in a romantic relationship with a woman whom she met on the Internet while playing a popular game "Everquest."

Wolfe acknowledged Thursday "the Internet is huge in this case."

Corbin allegedly told at least one friend that he filed for divorce after discovering his wife's online affair. The divorce papers were filed on Nov. 29, just six days before Jennifer Corbin's death.

On Thursday, prosecutors and defense attorneys questioned 16 potential jurors who mailed in excuses stating jury duty would be a hardship on them or their family. Eleven of those people were excused from jury service, and five were ordered to return today for jury orientation.

Another 24 potential jurors were excused without being questioned.

Corbin, who appeared alert and talked in hushed tones with his attorneys several times during the hearing, was conservatively dressed in a charcoal gray suit, blue shirt and maroon tie. His mother, Constance, and brother, Bob, sat behind him in the courtroom.

No members of the Corbin or Hearn family were present.

Several hundred potential jurors are expected to show up at the Gwinnett County Detention Center today for orientation. Court officials said a 500-seat auditorium in the building is reserved in case there isn't enough room in the 330-seat jury waiting room or an overflow area which holds another 50 people.

Jury selection is expected to take about two weeks. The trial is slated to last up to a month beginning on or about Sept. 25.