Jury seated in trial for defendant in ’06 double murder
From 70 to 14.
That is the equation state and defense lawyers were trying to solve Tuesday so alleged “Cash Feenz” defendant Roderick Washington will receive a fair trial.
After extensive questioning throughout the day, behind closed doors and in open court, lawyers whittled the initial jury pool of 70 down to four men and 10 women.
Two of the jurors are alternates.
Washington is charged with two counts each of first-degree murder, kidnaping and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. He is one of 10 defendants accused in the 2006 torture and killings of Alexis and Jeffery Sosa in Cape Coral.
He faces a life prison sentence if convicted.
In Courtroom H of the Lee County Justice Center, presiding Judge Thomas Reese, Assistant State Attorney Bobby Lee and defense lawyer Paul Sullivan questioned the potential jury pool, which was too large to house in Reese’s usual courtroom, Courtroom G.
When Reese asked the jurors if they had heard of the case, a large number of them raised their hand to indicate they had.
“Knowledge of the case is OK,” he said. “I’m concerned about if you’ve formed an opinion. Can you be objective, fair and impartial, and reach a conclusion?”
To ensure Washington’s jury would be able to answer “yes” to Reese’s question, he and lawyers spoke with jurors individually in an adjacent conference room, where other jurors could not hear.
One by one the jurors entered and left until only 43 remained.
They were then asked a series of questions by Lee and Sullivan, such as if they had negative feelings about law enforcement officers, if they would judge Washington if he did not testify despite his constitutional right not to, if they listened to rap and their feelings toward gang violence.
Opening statements will begin today, and the trial is slated to run through the week.
Co-defendants Mike Balint, Cody Roux, Iriana Santos, Kemar Johnston and Alexis Fernandez were among those listed as possible state’s witnesses during the trial.
Fernandez pleaded guilty to lesser charges last week as part of a state plea deal. If he testifies truthfully against his co-defendants during their trials, he will be sentenced to 26 years in prison.
Johnston and two other defendants in the case, Kenneth Lopez and Paul Nunes, have impending trials and face the death penalty if convicted.
Co-defendant Ashley Toye was found guilty in a jury trial and sentenced to life in prison.
Washington’s trial resumes today at 8:30 a.m.