Jury selection begins in trial for 2014 Lawrence murder

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

Defense attorney Adam Hall, standing, speaks during a status conference in the case of State v. Rontarus Washington Jr. on Sept. 5, 2019, in Douglas County District Court. Washington is seated between Hall and his other defense attorney, Angela Keck.

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.

More coverage: Rontarus Washington Jr. trial

Day 1 — Sept. 9, 2019: Jury selection begins in trial for 2014 Lawrence murder

Day 2 — Sept. 10, 2019: Prosecutor questions jury pool about graphic photos, domestic violence, biases in Lawrence murder trial

Recent coverage

Sept. 5, 2019 — Lawrence murder case, pending since 2014, set for trial next week

March 19, 2019 — Last-minute access to victim’s phone prompts another delay for murder trial of Lawrence man now jailed 4-plus years

Feb. 21, 2019 — 4 years after slaying, Lawrence homicide victim’s phone may finally be unlocked

Dec. 28, 2018 — Defense continues dissecting evidence in murder case against man arrested 4 years ago

Contact Mackenzie Clark

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