OTTUMWA — The Robert Eugene Pilcher murder trial got underway with the first day of jury selection Tuesday morning at the Wapello County Courthouse.
Pilcher, who is being charged with the murder of Mary Jayne Jones in 1974, was on hand as the counsel and Judge Richard Meadows selected 35 prospective jurors for the trial.
Before the prosecutors and defense attorneys can make their cases in the trial, a jury of 12 individuals and three alternates has to be selected. That process began Tuesday with 19 female and 16 male prospective jurors being selected at first, and then as some were sent home, others were called upon for questioning.
The lead prosecuting attorney, Denise Timmins, asked the prospective jurors many questions to get a better idea of who should serve on the jury. Questions included whether or not they know about the case, if they knew any of the other prospective jurors, if they knew any of the witnesses and many other questions to gauge how well each would perform.
Before the lunch break, four prospective jurors were sent home because of circumstances that could hinder their ability to make a concrete opinion while deliberating on the case. They were substituted for others that were brought in at the beginning of the day.
After lunch, Timmins continued asking questions to the prospective jurors for another hour and a half. When she was finished at 2:45 p.m., the defense had a chance to question the jurors.
Defense attorney Allen Cook started by again making sure no one knows Pilcher or the counsel. He then moved into questions about whether each of the prospective jurors knew what probable cause, belief beyond a reasonable doubt, credibility and human error meant and how they could come up in the case.
As he was talking, it became evident that there was some type of animal running around on the ceiling tiles of the courtroom. While it was distracting at times, the jurors did their best to block it out and carry on without having a break in concentration.
At the end of the day, there was no jury selected. All of the prospective jurors will come back to the courtroom at 9 a.m. Wednesday to continue with questioning to define who would serve best as jurors.
Meadows also made mention that he expects the trial to last about two weeks. He said it could be longer or shorter than that, depending on several factors.
— To see reporter Josh Vardaman's Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh