AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Jury selection began under tight security Tuesday in the trial of the alleged mastermind of a deadly plot to lure robbery victims with phony Craigslist job offers, a scheme that led to three deaths and the wounding of a fourth man.
Nine uniformed deputies watched as more than 200 prospective jurors for the murder trial of Richard Beasley entered the lobby of the ornate, 84-year-old Akron Civic Theater because there was no courthouse room big enough.
Beasley, who has hidden his face in his hands and lap in previous appearances before a judge, waived his right to be present.
Judge Lynne Callahan said jury selection could extend into next week and the trial could last six weeks. She expects opening statements Feb. 27.
Prosecutors have portrayed Beasley, 53, as an ex-con street preacher in Akron and mentor to a teenager convicted in the plot. Beasley has pleaded not guilty to a 27-count indictment.
Brogan Rafferty, who was then 17, was sentenced to life in prison in November after being found guilty in the plot. Because of his age, he wasn't eligible for the death penalty.
The judge cautioned prospective jurors not to discuss the case and to avoid media coverage. Prospective jurors filled the first few rows of the 2,585-seat theater and TV cameras were lined up across the back.
Prospective jurors filled out questionnaires and were divided into small groups and given times to report to the judge's courtroom for questioning. The judge said questions would focus on the length of the trial, pre-trial publicity and views of the death penalty.
Jurors will be sequestered in a hotel while deliberating the verdict and, if necessary, on whether to recommend the death sentence. Continued...