Jury Selection Begins In NCSU Tailgate Slaying Trial
Posted July 18, 2005 4:17 a.m. EDT
RALEIGH, N.C. — Jury selection began Monday for one of the brothers accused in a deadly shooting at a North Carolina State University tailgate party last fall.
Investigators say Timothy and Tony Johnson were seen fighting with two men outside Carter-Finley Stadium at a tailgate party last year. Witnesses say the brothers left, then later came back and shot Kevin McCann and Brett Harmon.
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Timothy Johnson is scheduled to be tried first. Tony Johnson will be tried separately.
The judge started with 82 potential jurors Monday morning; 41 had been excused by Monday afternoon. Each potential juror was required to complete
a 40-question survey
to give attorneys ideas about how much they already know about the case.
Johnson's attorneys will use a "diminished mental capacity" defense in his case -- meaning that at the time of the shootings, they say, he was not able to form a specific intent to commit murder.
"It will become very apparent during the course of the trial that this was a situation in which everyone was drinking, some people were doing drugs," said Johnson's defense attorney, Joe Cheshire. "The people were confronting each other. In issues like that, things like diminished capacity have to be examined by both sides. I think it will be part of everyone's case."
Johnson's attorneys are also concerned how the publicity will affect the trial.
"I have a lot of concerns," Cheshire said. "It's a death penalty case. There's been a lot of publicity. The publicity has not shown the case to be factually what it is. People in the public have a different interpretation of what they've heard, so there are a lot of intricate issues that will be hard."
Prosecutor Susan Spurlin said, despite the media attention, she believes Johnson will get a fair trial.
"Hopefully, we'll get jurors and I'm confident that we will. If they've heard things about this case, they will be able to set that information aside, base their decision on the defendant's guilt or innocence solely on the evidence presented in the courtroom and I think we will be able to get a jury like that," she said.
Johnson's psychological evaluation from Dorothea Dix Hospital is due back sometime on Tuesday, so questioning jurors may not begin until Wednesday or Thursday. Jury selection could take as long as two weeks and the trial is expected to last at least that long.
Jury selection was originally scheduled to start last week, but was delayed last Monday. Timothy Johnson is already facing prison time for a prior home invasion case, which could be a factor in his murder trial. If convicted, he could get the death penalty.