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6:53 AM Mon, Nov. 19th

Jury empanelled in Farris murder case

Marzet Farris III

Marzet Farris III

PRESCOTT - The jury in Marzet Farris III's murder trial has been selected, but they will not hear any testimony until Wednesday, Jan. 14.

Farris, 50, was arrested along with Laura Stelmasek, 48, of Prescott, were arrested at Farris' home in Willow Spring, N.C., on homicide charges after police alleged they murdered her husband and left his body in a van at Albuquerque International Sunport airport in June 2011.

In July 2011, Farris and Stelmasek were indicted on first-degree murder charges as well as concealment of a dead body. Stelmasek also was charged with child abuse per domestic violence. They were indicted again in October 2011.

Thursday's jury selection process started in the large Division 1 courtroom, with well over 100 potential jurors appearing, beginning the process of whittling them down to just 16 - 12 plus four alternates.

After some basic questions from Superior Court Judge Jennifer Campbell, the total was cut down to about 95 and proceedings were moved to Campbell's much smaller Division 2 courtroom.

Even so, the room was packed, with the juror candidates and the lawyers and court staff bringing the total to 106 in a room which with the sign, "Maximum capacity: 80."

Once Campbell had finished questioning the group, Deputy County Attorney Susan Eazer asked them, "How many of you watch TV shows like 'CSI,' or 'Law and Order?'" Most of the potential jurors raised their hands.

"Do any of you think that's the way it happens in real life?" she asked. "Is anyone going to hold the state to that standard?" None suggested they did.

When it was his turn, defense attorney David Shapiro gestured to Farris and asked the all-white jury pool, "This is a black man. Does anybody think, 'Gosh, it's a murder, the black guy has to have done it?'"

Shapiro went on to impress upon the members that the evidence presented in the trial could be hard to take.

"You're going to see autopsy pictures," he said. "It's not going to be pretty.

"Some of it can be pretty offensive," he added.

None of the jurors signaled that they were unwilling to see that evidence.

After the lawyers made their final choices, the pool was cut to 11 women and six men by about 4:30 p.m.

The process went smoothly, even quickly, Campbell noted, and that put the trial ahead of schedule, as Friday was set for more jury selection time.

Eazer said it would be difficult to get her witnesses in place for Friday, so Campbell agreed to start opening statements on the next planned trial date, Wednesday the 14th.

Follow Scott Orr on Twitter @AZNewsguy

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