The second day of jury selection in the murder trial of Kenneth H. Botham Jr. moved slowly this morning.
Botham, 28, is charged with murdering his wife, Patricia, and her neighbors, Mrs. Linda Miracle, and sons, Troy and Chad, about Aug. 23, 1975.
At noon today, two additional prospective women jurors had been temporarily seated in the jury box. The selection brought to nine persons the total number of jurors tentatively seated for a 12-person panel and two alternates.
Excused for cause
During the morning session, one man, Harold Canaday, was excused for cause. Cause may include any number of circumstances – knowledge of the crime, friendship with some of the participants, strong feelings on the death penalty or guilt or innocence of the defendant.
Most of the five persons excused from the panel since Monday have indicated fairly broad knowledge of the case, some feeling against the death penalty or a prejudgement on guilt or innocence.
Public Defender Lee Foreman has offered objections to many of the jurors who have been temporarily allowed to remain on the panel. None of the nine has permanently passed for cause.
To observe jurors
Dist. Judge William Ela said during the morning hearing that he intends to observe several of the possible jurors further during general questioning. That questioning will be conducted after the 14 seats are temporarily filled. Dist. Atty. Terrance Farina and Foreman have both indicated they expect that process to take several days, and may go into next week.
By the end of the first day’s hearing, 10 of the first 14 members of the jury panel had been questioned on pretrial publicity and their view of the death penalty.
Two alternate panels of 14 jurors each had been selected and were being held in readiness to replace those dismissed for cause, or later, on peremptory challenges. Each of the sides – prosecution and defense – has 17 peremptory challenges. These challenges allow either side to excuse a juror after he has been selected for the panel and questioned, without giving any reason for taking him off the jury.
By mid-afternoon Monday, after it became apparent that questioning was going to be lengthy for each juror, Judge Ela instructed the rest of the 162-person panel to return to their homes and not to report again to the courtroom until Wednesday.
At one point in the hearing, as Foreman hammered at the question whether a particular juror leaned toward a belief of guilty as the result of Botham’s being arrested, Dist. Atty. Farina observed drily [dryly]:
“The defense attorney seems to be asking for virgin jurors – people who don’t know anything, and that’s hard to find.”
About death penalty
During the examination, extensive questioning is being done by the judge and both attorneys on the jurors’ beliefs about the death penalty. Colorado law now provides that in a first degree murder trial, a second trial is held if the person is found guilty.
At that second trial, the same jury which heard the evidence in the first trial decides whether the penalty should be death or life imprisonment.
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