ROCKWALL (CBSDFW.COM) – One year ago on Saturday, Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were gunned down in a hail of high-powered bullets in their rural Forney home. On Friday morning, the process of picking a jury for one of the two capital murder suspects began.
A total of 3,000 Rockwall County residents are making a trip to the courthouse Friday to fill out paperwork in the laborious process of finding 12 jurors and several alternate jurors who can hear evidence against the former Justice of the Peace who stands charged with capital murder. Eric Williams and his wife, Kim Williams, were arrested less than three weeks after the McLelland murders.
Police believe that the two are also behind the January 2013 murder of Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse. According to law enforcement officials, the killings were done in retribution for the prosecution of the defendant in an earlier theft case. Williams lost his job, along with his law license and health insurance.
Although prosecutors intend to seek the death penalty against Eric Williams, they have not filed the necessary papers to seek the ultimate punishment against Kim Williams, who filed for divorce after her arrest.
While all three of the murders happened Kaufman County, the trial itself involves players and locations from anywhere but. The presiding judge, Michael Snipes, is a no-nonsense district judge from Dallas County. Special prosecutors Bill Wirskye and Toby Shook are also from Dallas County. Lead defense attorney Matthew David Seymour is from Lubbock. And the trial will take place in Rockwall County.
While Kaufman County authorities initially wanted the trial to take place on their home turf, attorneys and the judge agreed that the nature of the case, and the high-profile players involved, might make it hard, if not impossible, to seat a jury.
In the first round of jury selection, prospective jurors will fill out questionnaires that will help whittle down the pool for routine reasons, such as hardship and opinions on the death penalty. The questionnaires will be analyzed, and those who pass the first cut will be called back. By the end of the process, attorneys will have questioned each juror who will sit in judgment. “There are enough people in Rockwall County they can seat a fair and impartial jury,” said Ed Klein, an attorney who is not involved in the case.
A line of 1,500 potential jurors wrapped halfway around the courthouse on Friday morning. The remaining 1,500 potential jurors are scheduled to arrive on Friday afternoon. Most of the potential jurors appeared to be between 30 and 60 years of age. The judge explained that anyone over 70 years old who did not want to serve on the jury would be released.
The jury selection process is expected to last until August. The trial itself is not scheduled to begin until October. Kim Williams is being tried separately.
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