Long Jury Selection Process Begins In Joseph Thomas Murder Trial
It could take as long as a week and a half to pick a 12-person jury with four alternates
The jury selection process is called voir dire, Judge Richard Collins Jr. explained to the 140 potential jurors in the Joseph Thomas murder trial.
It means, roughly translated from the Latin, "to speak the truth," the judge said. "This is all we'll be asking you to do."
For the next several days, both the prosecutors and Thomas' attorneys will ask questions of this jury pool. Their ultimate goal is to winnow the group until they have 12 jurors who will decide Thomas' fate and four alternates.
Collins told the jurors that the selection process could take as long as a week and a half. Voir dire is expected to take so long because of the high-profile nature of the case and, when cases receive more attention, it is more difficult to find an impartial jury.
To that end, the 140 people of the jury pool filled out two questionnaires Wednesday. The first is the usual questionnaire that all potential jurors answer in criminal trials.
The second questionnaire specifically asks the men and women their feelings are regarding the death penalty and what, if any, information do they already know about the Thomas case.
For the next several days, the prosecuting and defense attorneys will talk to the potential jurors in groups of four to six -- asking additional questions to suss out if they should be on the jury.
Then, after the extensive vetting process if finished, the court will select a jury.
If the court cannot find enough people for an impartial jury, then the Thomas trial will be held in a different county.
McSween, 49, was found murdered Nov. 26, 2010, near Mario's Lakeway Lounge on Andrews Road in Mentor-on-the-Lake. She had tended bar at Lakeway that evening and closed the bar by herself.
Her body was discovered behind a nearby house, next to the bar, at 8:39 a.m.
She had been beaten, strangled and repeatedly stabbed, Lake County Deputy Coroner Dr. Mark Komar said. She likely bled to death.
Thomas, 28, of Perry Township, has been indicted on charges of rape, tampering with evidence, aggravated robbery, kidnapping and aggravated murder.
Thomas could face the death penalty if he is convicted.
Collins told the potential jurors that the total trial, including voir dire, could take 2 1/2 to three weeks.
If Thomas is convicted, it could take another three to five days for the jurors to decide if the death sentence is appropriate in this case.