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Potential jurors in Cash Feenz trial questioned about death penalty

By Staff | Jan 5, 2010

The death penalty took center stage during jury selection in the trial of Kemar Johnston, one of the alleged Cash Feenz defendants.
In a small room attached to courtroom 5C, potential jurors were individually questioned about the death penalty by 20th Judicial Circuit Judge Thomas S. Reese, along with defense attorney David A. Brener of Fort Myers and Assistant State Attorney Robert Lee.
The questions included whether they believe the death sentence is unjust, whether they could recommend the death penalty and in what cases they would recommend it.
Jurors were also questioned about whether certain factors, such as a defendant’s mental capacity or use of drugs or alcohol, would be considered when recommending the death penalty.
Responses from those questioned Monday afternoon ranged from automatically voting against the death penalty to recommending the sentence in certain instances depending on the facts of the case. Throughout the questioning, Johnston listened quietly to the responses of the potential jurors, occasionally glancing from Reese to his attorneys to the juror present.
According to Reese, the penalty in Florida for first-degree premeditated murder is “life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. In certain, exceptional cases the death penalty may be appropriate for the jury to consider.”
Johnston, 23, faces two counts each of first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon in the 2006 Cape Coral double murder of Alexis and Jeffrey Sosa. He also faces one count of second-degree arson, according to records from the Lee County Clerk of Courts.
One hundred people were summoned to the Lee County Justice Center as possible jurors Monday. Early on Reese excused one man due to a communication barrier — he said he understood “some” English and required a translator — and a woman was dismissed because of an existing medical condition.
Reese next called into the courtroom the remaining 98 people to begin the selection process, at which point the individual questioning continued until lunch at 12:15 p.m. When court reconvene at 1:45 p.m., Reese asked the potential jurors if they knew or were related to any of the lawyers involved in the case or listed on the witness lists.
Reese also asked whether anyone had any medical conditions or biases that would prevent them from serving on the jury. One woman reported that a relative of hers was “raped, tortured, robbed and murdered.”
When asked if she could be fair and impartial, she replied, “Absolutely not.”
Prior to the beginning of jury selection Monday morning, Brener discussed with Reese his amended motion requesting a change of venue, along with his original motion, due to the publicity surrounding the case. They also discussed questioning the potential jurors on the death penalty and their stance on it.