Because of the high number of jurors called, selection will continue Wednesday, and opening statements could begin as early as this week, defense attorney Michael Belter said.
During the past two weeks, Pounders worked with defense and prosecution attorneys to whittle down the voluminous jury pool that started in March with as many as 400 local residents, worked itself down to about 50 Monday and could reach the final number of 12 jurors and six alternates by the end of the week, after which the trial can begin.
On Monday, Pounders asked potential jurors specific questions about answers they gave on the questionnaire.
One resident was asked about her feelings toward death sentences. She said she “would always vote against the death penalty.” Another cited a conflict of interest with one of the 100 witnesses scheduled to testify.
Pounders also excused a number of jurors due to economic and personal hardships they cited that would have resulted from serving on what is expected to be a three-month-long trial.
Twenty-six-year-old Joseph Villagomez, who has a second job to help support his family, was among the potential jurors allowed to leave based on financial hardship.
“Things got kind of hard in the last couple of weeks,” said Villagomez, of Pasadena. “I don’t mind doing it, I’ve been on other juries before, but from a family standpoint I can’t skip out on a second job. We’ve hit a couple rough spots.”
The opportunity to delve into the personal lives of potential jurors marked a change from past weeks, in which Pounders did not ask questions as detailed as Monday’s inquiries.
“We’re in the phase now where we’re talking with jurors regularly one-by-one,” said Pounders, who also warned jurors not to read any news coverage of the trial, which has garnered significant media attention.