Jury selection begins in trial for 2014 Lawrence murder
photo by: Mackenzie Clark
By the time court recessed Monday afternoon, nearly one-third of a murder trial’s jury pool had been excused.
The defendant, 23-year-old Rontarus Washington Jr., is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated burglary in connection with the Nov. 7, 2014 death of 19-year-old Justina Altamirano Mosso. He appeared with his defense attorneys, Angela Keck and Adam Hall.
The trial is expected to last three weeks, and the duration is a hardship for many of the potential jurors.
During a brief orientation Monday morning, Douglas County District Court Judge James McCabria gave more than 80 potential jurors an outline of their duties. He said he would “err on the side of getting it right” rather than making the process go fast.
McCabria told the jury pool that in any criminal case, defendants should be presumed not guilty; the burden of proof is on the state, and defendants do not have to prove themselves innocent.
He said some of the selected jurors will be alternates, but they will not be informed of their status upfront.
Through the morning Monday, prosecutor C.J. Rieg asked a panel of 45 jurors seated in the central rows of the courtroom whether they were familiar with the case or any of the people involved, and whether it would impact their ability to be fair and impartial. She also asked about medical, financial and other hardships that could make it difficult for jurors to serve.
A pool of 105 potential jurors will be brought in Tuesday morning after more than 25 were already excused Monday.
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More coverage: Rontarus Washington Jr. trial
• Day 20 — Oct. 4, 2019: Jury unable to reach verdict in 2014 Lawrence murder case; prosecutor wants to try again
• Day 19 — Oct. 3, 2019: Lengthy Lawrence murder trial could end with hung jury; deliberations to resume Friday
• Day 18 — Oct. 2, 2019: Jury continues deliberating in Lawrence murder trial; will resume Thursday
• Day 17, closing arguments — Oct. 1, 2019: Prosecutor rehashes defendant’s story’s ‘progression,’ defense emphasizes passion in closing arguments for Lawrence murder trial
• Day 17, last of testimony — Oct. 1, 2019: Longtime Cedarwood resident may have seen Lawrence murder victim kissing an unknown man, he testifies
• Day 16 — Sept. 30, 2019: Detective: Husband’s phone was en route to Manhattan at time of Lawrence murder victim’s death
• Day 15 — Sept. 27, 2019: Defendant and victim’s husband left prints on toilet tank lid used as weapon in Lawrence murder
• Day 14 — Sept. 26, 2019: Expert: Partial DNA on Lawrence murder victim’s nail could link to 1 in 2,000 men
• Day 13 — Sept. 25, 2019: Lawrence murder defendant tells police he walked in on body, then they accuse him, video shows
• Day 10 — Sept. 20, 2019: Co-worker of murder victim’s husband lied to Lawrence police, he says; footwear impression expert testifies
• Day 9 — Sept. 19, 2019: Lawrence murder victim’s best friend testifies, alleges domestic abuse in victim’s marriage
• Day 8 — Sept. 18, 2019: Investigator gives jury photo walkthrough of crime scene in Lawrence murder case
• Day 7 — Sept. 17, 2019: Husband of Lawrence murder victim wants to stay in U.S. only until case wraps, he testifies
• Day 6 — Sept. 16, 2019: Lawrence murder victim’s husband recounts alleged infidelity, lack of trust in relationship
• Day 5 — Sept. 13, 2019: Lawrence murder victim’s husband believed she was pregnant at time of her death, he testifies
• Day 4 — Sept. 12, 2019: Cousin testifies about last time she saw Lawrence murder victim alive
• Day 3 — Sept. 11, 2019: With jury selected, Lawrence murder trial to proceed
• Day 2 — Sept. 10, 2019: Prosecutor questions jury pool about graphic photos, domestic violence, biases in Lawrence murder trial
• Day 1 — Sept. 9, 2019: Jury selection begins in trial for 2014 Lawrence murder
• Sept. 5, 2019 — Lawrence murder case, pending since 2014, set for trial next week