Three women jurors had been excused for cause in the Kenneth Herbert Botham Jr. murder trial by noon today.  Two other persons who had been examined by Dist. Judge William Ela and attorneys had not been excused.

Selection of the jury began this morning, with a preliminary panel of 14 persons and a reserve panel of 14 persons selected from a 162-person venire.

Botham, 27, [28] is accused of the murders of his wife, Patricia, and of her neighbors, Mrs. Linda Miracle, and sons, Troy and Chad.  The four disappeared on Aug. 23, 1975, from their homes.  Their bodies were found about six weeks later in the Gunnison River.  The two Miracle children had been shot, but no cause of death was ever revealed for the two women.

Private questioning of the individual jurors, on the questions of pretrial publicity and the death penalty, was continuing this afternoon in an attempt to take jurors off the panel for cause.  An unlimited number of jurors may be removed for cause-having formed an opinion, close friendship with one of the victims or the defendant, too substantial knowledge of the case or for other reasons.

Selection of the jury is expected to take several days.  After a tentative jury has been selected, both the prosecutor and the defense attorney will have 14 peremptory challenges, in which they may excuse jurors without giving any specific reason.  Each new juror selected must then go through the process of being challenged for cause or being subject to a peremptory challenge.

Jurors who had been excused for cause included Mrs. Susan Sparks, Mrs. Georgia Sampson and Mrs. Billie Welty.

Botham appeared in court today dressed in the same rust jacket, dark green trousers and cowboy boots which he has worn for several previous appearances.

The defendant, speaking to reporters during a brief break said he has lost weight in jail, where he has been held since Nov. 8, 1975.  He said he gets some exercise now, because he has been moved to a four-person cell, rather than the single cell in which he originally was placed.  He said he had been in the cell with another prisoner for about four weeks, but is now in the cell by himself.

Its an easier cell to do time in than a single cell, Botham said.

Only members of the jury and of the press were allowed in the courtroom this morning, because of the large number of jurors called and the relatively small size of the courtroom.  A few jurors stood in the room early in the hearing.

Botham has pleaded innocent of the four counts of first degree murder with which he is charged.  First degree murder in Colorado may carry a penalty of life imprisonment or execution.

 

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