Jury selection in Stafford trial enters Day 3
Attorneys in the murder trial of Derrick Stafford begin today's jury selection process halfway to the goal of seating 14 people to decide the fate of the former Marksville Police Department lieutenant. After two days of interviewing prospective jurors, seven had been selected. They will need 12 jurors and two alternates before the trial can begin in 12th Judicial District Judge Billy Bennett's courtroom.
Stafford is charged with the 2nd degree murder of 6-year-old Jeremy Mardis and attempted 2nd degree murder of the child's father, Christopher Few, at a traffic stop in Marksville on Nov. 3, 2015. Stafford and co-defendant Norris Greenhouse Jr. were moonlighting as Ward 2/Marksville City Court deputy marshals at the time of the incident. Greenhouse is scheduled for trial on June 12.
Day 2 was a stark contrast to the first day of jury selection. The courthouse was calm and there were very few reporters and courtroom observers. The second set of prospective jurors were interviewed all day, with only one of their number being acceptable to the prosecution team of John Sinquefield and Matthew Derbes and the defense duo of Jonathan Goins and Christopher LaCour.
Both sides sought to have several of that group dismissed "for cause," alleging they could not be fair and impartial for various reasons. Bennett denied those requests, saying he believed all of the challenged juror candidates had indicated they would be willing to do their job as a juror -- even one who said he would "have a problem" voting to convict on a charge that carried a life sentence, which is the mandatory sentence for 2nd degree murder.
Bennett gently chided the prosecutors and defense counsel for selecting one or two "questionable" comments out of a prospective juror's day-long answers to questions and then attempting to develop a "for cause" challenge to avoid using one of their limited number of discretionary challenges to remove unacceptable jurors.
"If we pick and choose one or two comments and disregard the rest of their testimony, probably even the Pope would not pass muster as a juor in this court," Bennett said.
The attorneys used their discretionary challenges to remove those jury candidates.
Jury selection is expected to continue at least through today and possibly through the week.
Bennett told the juror selected Tuesday to call the courthouse around noon today to learn whether he needs to report to court at 1:30 p.m. for the start of trial.
"The odds are slim that you will be needed by then," the judge said.