TAMPA — In the death penalty trial against Humberto Delgado Jr., accused of killing Tampa police Cpl. Michael Roberts, jurors were questioned Tuesday about their exposure to pretrial publicity about the case.
Of 150 questioned, 69 said they had outside knowledge of the case. Lawyers on both sides brought in the potential jurors, one at a time, and asked what they knew.
One was the daughter of Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputy Mark Longway, who was killed in a car accident in Tampa on Sept. 21, 2010.
She cried as she disclosed that to the judge and attorneys, and said she had spent time with Cpl. Roberts' family at a memorial.
Minutes after she was dismissed, another potential juror got some bad news: A family member had died. Attorneys agreed to let her go, and she, too, left in tears.
Others were dismissed for more expected reasons, including financial and personal hardships they'd face if they had to serve in a three-week trial.
By the end of Tuesday, a total of 68 had been cut.
Some questioned about pretrial publicity knew lawyers planned to use mental illness as a defense. Some said they had relatives in law enforcement and could not be fair and impartial. One had the case confused with that of Dontae Morris, accused of killing two Tampa police officers last year.
One woman appeared on the verge of tears as she told lawyers she would have a hard time deciding whether Delgado would live or die.
Jurors will be questioned about other issues, like the death penalty and their views on the criminal justice system. On Monday, a public defender who spoke up in court noted a potential juror had complained online about jury duty before selection began. That potential juror said on Facebook that anyone who would make him wake up that early was guilty. He remains in the pool, but there is much eliminating still to do.
Jury selection could last all week.
Alexandra Zayas can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 310-2081.