Evidence, trial date still uncertain for Johnson case


MISSOULA, Mont. - A surprising twist in the rape case against former University of Montana starting quarterback Jordan Johnson.

Johnson was charged with rape at the end of July. He's accused of raping a friend at her home in February. Now it turns out his trial won't start any time soon.

Both prosecutors and Johnson's defense told the judge Tuesday there are still several issues with potential evidence that need to be worked out before they can go to trial.

But one thing was clear -- prosecutors are planning for lots of work.

Deputy County Attorney Suzy Boylan told the judge that the state may ask for 500 people to choose from for a jury and three weeks reserved for Johnson's trial.

To put that in perspective, NBC Montana covered another high profile rape trial earlier this year. A jury convicted Joshua Peltier of rape, the same charge filed against Johnson. Peltier's trial took four days and 170 people were part of the jury pool.

District Judge Karen Townsend told prosecutors and Johnson's attorneys she wonders if 500 potential jurors and a three week trial are really necessary.

"And do you really want 500 perspective jurors?" Townsend asked Boylan. "We tossed this question around a lot. I see that the defense thinks that 100 would be adequate and I don't think that's anywhere near adequate," said Boylan. "I mean I've had cases where we've almost ran out of that number of jurors, in a case that hasn't had publicity."

Boylan said prosecutors may scale back their request for jurors and trial length when they're done looking at evidence and interviewing witnesses. Johnson's attorneys say they think two weeks will be enough for the trial.

Townsend has tentatively planned the trial for January, though no official date has been set yet.