Lakewood Ranch Herald

Court to poll jury pool in Fast case

BRADENTON — In an effort to find an impartial panel of jurors for the trial of Thomas Fast, 54, court officials are looking to poll potential jurors by mail before jury selection to eliminate those who have already made up their mind about the case.

A grand jury indicted Fast on a first-degree murder charge in August 2007 in the killing of his stepmother, Susan Fast, who disappeared after returning from a trip to the Bahamas.

Susan Fast was last seen on June 29, 2007, and Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies found her dismembered body in garbage bags on July 25, 2007. Deputies found the bags in a storm drain near a pond behind a Lakewood Ranch shopping plaza.

Court officials plan to mail out 400 questionnaires to potential jurors asking about their knowledge of the Fast case. On Tuesday, attorneys argued over wording of the questions, which will be mailed out in the next two days.

Circuit Judge Gilbert Smith, who will preside over Fast’s July 6 trial, said he would decide on the wording before that deadline.

Officials with the Manatee clerk of courts office told Assistant State Attorney Art Brown and Assistant Public Defender Franklin Roberts the 400 questionnaires would bring in a pool of about 140 jurors. The cost of the mailings will be split by the state attorney’s and public defender’s offices.