Originally Published: May 16, 2010 10:31 p.m.
PRESCOTT - Jury selection in the murder trial for Steven DeMocker will continue this week.
After seven days of jury selection, the prosecution and defense agreed on 28 jurors but seek a panel of 38. Then, after each side strikes 10 potential jurors, a panel of 12 plus six alternates will hear the evidence.
Prosecutors charged DeMocker, 56, a Prescott stockbroker, with first-degree murder in the July 2, 2008, bludgeoning death of his former wife, Carol Kennedy. They allege DeMocker beat Kennedy, 53, to death with a golf club in her Williamson Valley home to avoid paying $6,000-per-month alimony and other financial obligations the couple agreed to in their divorce settlement. Defense lawyers say the settlement favored their client. DeMocker told detectives that he was riding his mountain bike at the time someone killed Kennedy. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
Defense lawyers John Sears and Larry Hammond also filed a motion asking Superior Court Judge Thomas B. Lindberg to reconsider three jurors because of their attitudes about the death penalty. About 50 potential jurors remain to be questioned individually from a group of about 217 Yavapai County residents that previously filled out a detailed questionnaire.
"There's a possibility they may have to bring in more people to fill out questionnaires," Richard Robertson, a spokesman for the defense, said Sunday.
"The process of jury selection is unusual in Yavapai County," he said. "It is a process used in other places, the use of questionnaires and individual (questioning). The quality of the jury is probably going to be much better as a result. Jurors are able to speak more openly. While it makes it drag on longer, I think the interests of justice are better served by this process."
Meanwhile, jury selection has been slow going, Robertson said. Groups of eight possible jurors in the morning and another eight in the afternoon come to the courthouse in Prescott for individual questioning.
"We're only getting three a day," said Robertson, who predicted that the attorneys could give opening statements May 26 or 27.
Another issue arose Thursday involving victim's rights. Charlotte DeMocker, 18, and her grandmother, Ruth Kennedy, saw each other in court for the first time in awhile and hugged. One of the Yavapai County Attorney's Office victim advocates told them to step outside then instructed them that they couldn't be seen together by the jurors, Robertson said, calling the incident, a "kafuffle."
Ruth Kennedy, the victim's mother, was on the phone with her daughter when the attack began, and Carol Kennedy exclaimed, 'Oh, no!" before the line went dead.
DeMocker's defense lawyers and a lawyer for DeMocker's children will file a motion asking that the parties be allowed to behave naturally, Robertson said. Another daughter, Katie, 21, who graduated from college this weekend, also will attend the trial.
"There are constitutional issues," Robertson said. "Katie and Charlotte are the daughters of the murder victim. We have argued they are being denied their rights under the state's constitution because they don't agree with the prosecution." They believe their father is innocent while Kennedy will be called as a prosecution witness. "It also denies Steve his constitutional rights because they're trying to do some staging in front of the jury (by keeping the family members apart) that isn't even real to help the prosecution's case," Robertson said.
In another pending motion, the defense asked Lindberg to prevent Deputy County Attorney Joseph C. Butner III from calling a neighbor of Carol Kennedy's as a witness. The woman told detectives that she saw someone riding a bicycle in the area at the time of the murder but could not identify that person as DeMocker.
Sears told Lindberg that the jurors would be bound to wonder if she saw DeMocker or she didn't.
"Frankly, from our point of view, she'll help the defense," Sears said. "She is going to say it's not Mr. DeMocker."