OSWEGO, NY – Jury selection got under way today (Sept. 8)Ã‚Â in the trial of the Palermo man charged with killing his stepsister last August.
Alan Jones is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 11-year-old Erin Maxwell.
Opening statements from the defense and prosecution will get under way Wednesday.
Jones stood with his attorney, Sal Lanza, and Oswego County District Attorney Don Dodd in front of Judge Walter Hafner’s bench and interviewed potential jurors.
Those who passed the initial inspection took a seat in the jury box. There, they faced additional questioning from the defense and prosecution. If they were selected, they remained in the jury box; those who weren’t picked left the courtroom.
By late this afternoon, 12 men had been picked for the jury.
Two alternates, a man and a woman were alsoÃ‚Â seated.
A pool of 67 potential jurors was called to Oswego County Court today. They are being interviewed in groups of 22 at a time.
When a total of 12 jurors and two alternates is seated, Lanza and Dodd will offer their opening statements in the trial.
“I will not be rushed,” Lanza said today noting that the case could take three to four weeks to resolve.
“I don’t understand why it should take that long,” Hafner said.
Lanza indicated he plans to call 33 witnesses.
The prosecution said it should take around two weeks. The people plan to call about 20 witnesses.
Prior to bringing the potential jurors into the courtroom, the judge and lawyers agreed to some guidelines for the proceedings regarding evidence and testimony.
Lanza said he didn’t want the jury to hear any mention of sexual trauma as a contributing factor in the child’s death. It was part of the autopsy report – but there is no mention of it in the indictment against his client, he said.
Lanza also argued to prohibit the prosecution from bringing up the (allegedly deplorable) living conditions at the Maxwell home and reports that she had been locked in her bedroom and starved.
The DA indicated that he wouldn’t bring up the living conditions and there won’t be any testimony suggesting Erin may have been starved, he said.
The judge agreed, adding that social status doesn’t determine guilt or innocence.
However, Dodd said he will describe the layout of the house and that the 11-year-old had been locked in her room.
Lanza objected pointing out that testimony would “inflame the jury.” He said he would continue to object if that is brought up during the course of the trial.
In court today, Jones was dressed in a light shirt and tie and dress slacks. His hair was neatly combed and was wearing a pair of glasses with both ear pieces. In all other court appearances, he was dressed in a county jail inmate uniform and shackled.
While Lanza said he has no problem with the way his client was dressed, he said he wants the jury to understand that Jones has been in jail for months unable to come up with $100,000 bail.
Erin was found unresponsive in her bedroom on Aug. 29, 2008. She died the next morning at a Syracuse hospital.
Jones told authorities that he discovered her with a piece of green curtain cord around her neck; the other end was attached to a screw in the window frame.
Erin’s father, Lindsey, and stepmother, Lynn, were convicted of endangering the welfare of a child following a jury trial in Palermo Town Court this summer. They are scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 12.
If convicted, Jones faces a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.