Jury picked in Fast murder trial

BRADENTON — Thomas Fast told a judge he is comfortable with the jury he and his attorneys selected Tuesday after expressing in the past that he wanted to represent himself in his first-degree murder trial because he is unsatisfied with his defense.

Before a jury of nine women and five men, two of whom are alternates, were sworn in Tuesday evening after two days of jury selection, Circuit Judge Gilbert Smith Jr. asked Fast if he felt comfortable with the jury chosen.

Fast said he did.

“I have had input and output in this process,” he said.

Smith also put on the record that he observed Fast helping his attorneys pick the jury.

Closing arguments are expected to begin first thing today with the state looking to prove Fast, 54, killed and dismembered his stepmother, 60-year-old Susan Fast, in 2007.

Fast’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Franklin Roberts, asked Smith to question Fast about jury selection because in the past Fast claimed he clashed with Roberts. Fast previously submitted a motion to have Roberts removed because he refused to contact federal authorities for “relevant case work” about Fast’s belief that he is being framed for Susan Fast’s death.

In dozens of hand-written pages, Fast has outlined his belief that the FBI, DEA, Colombian drug cartels and the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office played a role in Susan Fast’s killing. A judge denied Fast’s request to represent himself.

For two days, Fast faced a jury pool of around 100 people in a tie and dress shirt, filling up sheet after sheet of notebook paper with notes, as Roberts’ co-counsel Assistant Public Defender Jennifer Fury, and Assistant State Attorney Art Brown quizzed potential jurors. When he was not taking notes, Fast looked on at potential jurors calmly, at times with a slight grimace on his face.

Both sides asked potential jurors their feeling about mental illness, though Fury assured the group defense will not be making an insanity defense at trial. Fury said though insanity will not be a defense, mental illness will most likely be a subject during the trial.

Doctors have testified in hearings prior to trial that Fast has suffered from mental illness since the early 1980s, but a judge found he is competent to stand trial saying he is capable of understanding the proceedings.

Brown also quizzed several jurors about past instances of violence in their families, with several responses including two people in the jury pool who said their family members had been killed, and two others who said members of their families had been arrested for violent crimes.

GPS technology also became a subject of questioning and will possibly play a role in the Fast trial.

Sheriff’s deputies say they were able to locate Susan Fast’s body parts stuffed in garbage bags in a storm drain behind a Lakewood Ranch shopping center because of a GPS system in her sport utility vehicle.

The system showed it had been driven in the area prior to the discovery of her body, according to sheriff’s reports.

Fast is also accused of stealing Susan Fast’s SUV.