Jury picking: Jury selection expected to be finished todayA jury is expected to be seated today to hear opening statements in the Leron Lee Howard murder trial. The first day of jury selection began Tuesday morning in Southeast District Court in Jamestown.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
A jury is expected to be seated today to hear opening statements in the Leron Lee Howard murder trial.
The first day of jury selection began Tuesday morning in Southeast District Court in Jamestown.
Howard, 34, of Jamestown, is charged with murder and criminal conspiracy in the death of Abdi Ali Ahmed, 18, Jamestown, on April 30, 2011. Ahmed died of blunt-force trauma to the head and also suffered stab wounds to his abdomen.
“Quite frankly, jury selection is pretty tedious,” said Steve Mottinger, court-appointed defense attorney for Howard, said addressing prospective jurors. “But it is a big deal for Mr. Howard and a big deal for the community.”
Mottinger questioned the prospective jurors on a number of issues including their knowledge of the case, whether they had any preconceived opinions on the case and their feelings concerning the defendant’s race.
Howard is black.
“Does the fact that Mr. Howard is a man of color cause you any concern?” Mottinger asked one prospective juror.
All jurors questioned about race issues said Howard’s race would not be a factor in their deliberations.
During the morning session of jury selection, five potential jurors were dismissed after saying they had already formed an opinion in the case. Another potential juror was dismissed because she was the primary caregiver for a child with special needs.
Another potential juror was dismissed before the selection process started for arriving late at the courtroom.
During the afternoon session the jury pool was further reduced to 46 people. All potential jurors were dismissed for the day at about 3:30 p.m.
Jury selection will continue today with a final panel of 12 jurors and two alternates expected to be seated in the morning.
Fritz Fremgen, Stutsman County state’s attorney, said the process was aided by the questionnaires jurors had filled out before trial started.
Opening statements could occur Wednesday morning with testimony beginning Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning. The trial is anticipated to last about two weeks.
Howard is the second individual tried in the case. Janelle Cave was convicted in February of manslaughter and criminal conspiracy. She is currently serving an 11-year sentence. As part of her sentence, she must testify at Howard’s trial.
The murder and criminal conspiracy charges Howard faces are Class AA felonies punishable by life in prison without parole. Judge Thomas E. Merrick is presiding over the case.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at email@example.com