Stafford trial jury selection enters fourth day
The end of jury selection in the murder trial of Derrick Stafford appears to be in sight as the tedious but important process enters its fourth day at the Avoyelles Parish Courthouse in Marksville.
After three days, 11 jurors had been accepted by prosecution and defense attorneys. The defense had only three discretionary challenges left. The prosecution had nine.
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. The child, seated in the front seat of the car, was hit by five of the 18 bullets fired at the vehicle and died at the scene. Few was seriously wounded but survived.
Stafford and co-defendant Norris Greenhouse Jr. were moonlighting as Ward 2/Marksville City deputy marshals at the time of the incident. Greenhouse is scheduled for trial on June 12.
Individual interviews of the fourth 14-member group in the process were conducted Wednesday morning. Of that number, about half indicated they had strong opinions as to Stafford’s guilt. Some of those indicated their opinion could be changed if there was evidence that has not been presented in the media accounts they have seen, heard and read.
Defense attorney Jonathan Goins raised an issue that has been expected to be a part of the overall defense -- whether a juror could vote to convict on a lesser charge, such as negligent homicide -- if he felt the evidence supported the less serious crime.
Even after the 14 jurors and alternates are selected, both sides have a certain number of “back strikes” they can use to rescind their prior acceptance of a potential juror. If that happens, the selection process continues to fill those vacancies.
12th Judicial District Judge Billy Bennett told those selected for the jury so far to be at the courthouse at 9 a.m. today. There were hopes expressed that the jury of 12 jurors and two alternates would be in place today, possibly allowing for the trial to begin this afternoon or tomorrow.