Jury selection to continue into next week in Cash Feenz trial
Jury selection in the murder trial of alleged Cash Feenz defendant Kemar Johnston continued Friday as a second panel of jurors was questioned.
At the start of Thursday’s proceedings, 20th Judicial Circuit Judge Thomas S. Reese announced that two additional panels of jurors would be pulled in an attempt to seat a jury — 30 people Friday and 60 Tuesday. After three days of jury selection, which began Tuesday, 21 jurors were retained out of 100.
Reese planned to get through the second panel in one day, and wanted to spend Tuesday and Wednesday working on the third jury pool. Those jurors retained from Friday and Tuesday’s panels will undergo further questioning Thursday with the 21 leftover from the first pool.
“Hopefully by Thursday we’ll have a sufficient number,” he said Thursday of seating a Lee County jury.
“And I hope we don’t lose too many in the process,” Reese added.
Defense attorney David A. Brener of Fort Myers and Assistant State Attorney Bob Lee have been asking jurors about their knowledge of the case, about the death penalty and if they hold an opinion of Johnson or his guilt.
Johnston, 23, faces two counts each of first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon in the 2006 double murders in Cape Coral of Alexis Sosa, 18, and Jeffrey Sosa, 14. If convicted, Johnston faces life in prison without parole or death.
The defense has repeatedly pushed for a change of venue, stateing that pre-trial publicity will not permit a fair and impartial jury. Reese has said that he would rather try to seat a jury than move forward with a change of venue.
“Let’s give it a try with the jurors we have,” Reese said Wednesday.
Ten people were arrested and charged in the torture and slaying of Alexis Sosa and his nephew, Jeffrey. According to officials, the Sosas were tied up and tortured at Johnston’s home in Cape Coral, then taken to an industrial site in the north Cape where they were fatally shot and Alexis’ body was burned in the trunk of a vehicle.
Kenneth Lopez is scheduled to go to trial Feb. 1.
Paul Nunes, who pleaded guilty in August for a reduced sentence of 40 years, has a status conference Monday with his new attorney, Melodee Smith. Reese appointed Smith to the case Monday, a week after Nunes requested that his plea deal, requiring his testimony against Johnston and Lopez, be withdrawn.
“We’ve got a court hearing on Monday, but I don’t have any information for you yet,” Smith said Friday, adding that she has yet to talk to Nunes.
“We picked up the files from one of the attorneys, and we’re at the very beginning stages of what needs to be addressed,” she said.
Smith compared Monday’s conference to a meet-and-greet, adding that nothing has been decided on Nunes’ recent plea deal withdrawal request.
“After Monday, we should have a better idea,” she said.
Roderick Washington and Ashley Toye were found guilty following separate trials. Washington received four consecutive life sentences plus 30 years in prison, and Toye was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Melissa Rivera, Iriana Santos, Alexis Fernandez, Cody Roux and Michael Balint have each pleaded guilty to lesser crimes and will receive prison sentences varying between 14 years and 26 years in exchange for their testimony.
Jury selection in Johnston’s trial resumes at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Lee County Justice Center in Fort Myers. Assistant State Attorney Marie Doerr is also prosecuting the case, and attorney Terry Lenamon is serving as co-counsel for the defense.