DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A pool of 3,000 potential jurors have begun filling out questionnaires for the capital murder trial of Antonio Cochran of Dallas. He could face the death penalty if convicted in the abduction and murder of Zoe Hastings in 2015.
Hastings’ was found dead in a van crashed off an embankment in the Lake Highlands area. The 18-year-old went missing after leaving home on a Sunday afternoon headed to a Walgreen’s store to return a Redbox movie. Her parents reported her missing after she didn’t show up for evening church service at a nearby Mormon temple.
Police say DNA evidence collected at the crime scene lead them to Cochran. Just months before Hastings’ murder, Cochran, now 36-years-old, had been acquitted of sexual assault charges in Texarkana. Now it’s time for a North Texas jury to decide if he is guilty or not.
Former State District Judge Vickers Cunningham, who presided over the murder trials of the Texas Seven, says the written jury questionnaire forms are extremely important. “It’s very difficult to get people to tell you in open court what they’re really feeling, because they’re nervous,” he said. “So, it’s important that you give them a chance to reflect on it and write it down.”
In a capital murder case Cunningham says the forms are designed to find out if a potential juror can impose the death penalty, if necessary. “They get into the social ideas and the education for that individual, so they can really understand they’re education, religious and political views,” he said.
It could be sometime before the pool is narrowed down to 12 jurors. As it stands, the trial is set to will begin in October.