Jury selection under way

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 15, 2001


Tuesday, May 15, 2001

HASTINGS, Minn. – Jury selection for a Mower County murder trial began Monday, and could take an unusually long time, court personnel say.

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Three men accused of killing two roofers in an Austin motel last year appeared before Third District Judge Donald Rysavy in a Dakota County courtroom.

The 99 potential jurors who filled out questionnaires on Monday were to begin individual interviews with attorneys this morning, Dakota County jury manager Judy Gilbert said. The case’s three defendants could make selection longer than the standard week, she said.

"It’s hard to say because of the triple defense," Gilbert said. "I anticipate it’s going to take longer to start because of the four attorneys."

Attorneys for defendants Vernon Neal Powers, Jr., 28, Scott Perry Christian, 30, and David Kenneth Christian, 28, each will be able to strike 15 potential jurors from the jury pool, Gilbert said. Prosecutors also can strike undesirable jurors.

The attorneys should be able to interview about 10 potential jurors per day, until 12 jurors and two alternates are selected, she said.

A gag order imposed by Rysavy prohibited attorneys from discussing Monday’s proceedings or interview criteria. Rysavy had the proceedings moved to the Dakota County Courthouse in Hastings, ruling pretrial publicity in Mower County jeopardized the defendants’ right to a fair trial.

Powers, Scott Christian, and David Christian face first-degree murder charges for allegedly shooting three men during a robbery at the Downtown Motel last June, killing two and injuring the third.

Call Jennifer Hemmigsen at (507) 379-3438 or e-mail her at news@albertleatribune.com.