Wednesday, June 20, 2018
News Roundup

Emotions run high during jury selection in Julie Schenecker murder trial

TAMPA — Emotions flared on Thursday as attorneys began to question a pool of 90 prospective jurors in the trial of Julie Schenecker, the New Tampa mother accused of murdering her two teenage children in 2011.

After three days of interviewing jurors individually to gauge their level of exposure to media coverage of the killings, attorneys began asking them about events in their lives that might bias them. Prosecutors wanted to know if the jurors had served in the military, how much schooling they'd had and whether they had any children.

The two victims in the case were 16 and 13 years old when they were killed, prosecutor Jay Pruner reminded the jurors. He asked if that fact would prevent anyone from being fair.

Two female jurors began to cry. Separately, they told Pruner that they wanted to have children, but hadn't been able to conceive.

"We don't have any children and not for lack of trying, just no luck," said one woman.

After jury selection ended Wednesday, she went home and thought about the case, she said. The prospect of spending two more weeks immersed in the story of a woman accused killed her own children was too much to handle.

Both of the women were excused.

By the end of the fourth day of jury selection, 69 potential jurors remained.

Many of those sent home said they had children and couldn't debate questions of Schenecker's guilt or innocence with an open mind.

"I mean no disrespect, but I'm not impartial to this case," said a father of two, who was later excused. "The last person children should have to look over their shoulder for is their parents."

Other potential jurors were dismissed after they told attorneys that they wouldn't support the insanity defense, which Schenecker's attorneys plan to use in the trial. Still more were removed from the pool when they said their experiences with mental illness made them more likely to support such a defense.

"I think I have more than the average sympathy for people with mental illness," said a man whose aunt committed suicide when he was young. Though defense attorneys argued that he should remain in the pool, he was ultimately excused.

Prosecutors also focused on potential jurors' military experience, asking whether anyone had served or had friends or family in the service. Pruner appeared particularly interested in whether jurors had moved frequently, as military families often do. Schenecker and her ex-husband former Army Col. Parker Schenecker were in the military for years.

Though the process of jury selection is time-consuming and the questioning is painstaking, there were moments of levity.

As the day drew to a close, the prosecutor shifted to asking jurors about their arrest histories and whether anyone they knew had been charged with a crime.

"I was arrested but found innocent in the '70s for growing a couple marijuana plants in my college dorm room," offered one man.

There was a pause. "That was a class project, wasn't it?" said the prosecutor.

The process of choosing 12 jurors and four alternates is likely to continue through today. Schenecker's trial is expected to begin on Monday.

Comments
Police: Couple leased someone else’s home to 15 families at same time

Police: Couple leased someone else’s home to 15 families at same time

LARGO — Vanessa Rodriguez thought she found the right house for her three kids, in the right neighborhood, for the right rent. She signed the lease for April 30, sent a $2,300 money order and planned to move in June 1.Then the delays started. She sai...
Updated: 16 minutes ago
Clearwater wants $40 million from the county for a stadium. But there’s not $40 million to give.

Clearwater wants $40 million from the county for a stadium. But there’s not $40 million to give.

CLEARWATER —The city’s proposed $79.7 million overhaul of the Philadelphia Phillies’ spring training facilities depends on getting $40 million in bed taxes from Pinellas County.But records show even if county officials wanted to bankroll the Phillies...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning’s Victor Hedman wins NHL’s Norris Trophy

Lightning’s Victor Hedman wins NHL’s Norris Trophy

Victor Hedman, a relentless part of the Lightning's push to the Eastern Conference final, was honored Wednesday night with the Norris Trophy, given to the NHL's top defenseman."To the Lightning organization, Mr. Jeff Vinik, Steve Yzerman and the coac...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Hillsborough commissioners approve referendum on making county officers non-partisan

Hillsborough commissioners approve referendum on making county officers non-partisan

TAMPA — The debate over whether "Rep" or "Dem" should be on the ballot alongside the name of candidates for sheriff or property appraiser is now in the hands of Hillsborough County voters.Hillsborough County commissioners voted 5-2 Wednesday to hold ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
For starters: Rays at Astros, with a different look

For starters: Rays at Astros, with a different look

UPDATE, 6:43: Cash said the key to how the pieced the lineup together was the opportunity to give Cron (who is struggling) and Duffy (who is doing well) back to back days off. … Looking ahead to the weekend, the Rays will use RHP Ryne Stanek as...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Seminole Heights restaurant Mortar & Pestle files for bankruptcy reorganization

Seminole Heights restaurant Mortar & Pestle files for bankruptcy reorganization

TAMPA — Mortar & Pestle, a fledgling Seminole Heights eatery with a mom-and-pop pharmacy theme, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. Seacoast Bank was listed as the creditor with the largest unsecured claim: $1.4 million.The restaurant...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Column: It’s time for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to process concealed weapons licenses

It is hard to believe that the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs didn’t discover for a year that an employee could not log into an account needed to see results of background checks that examined, among other things, whether applicants f...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Column: I survived a suicide attempt and here’s what you should know

Column: I survived a suicide attempt and here’s what you should know

Twenty-five years ago, I was a reporter at WTSP-TV, out in the field covering Tampa Bay’s Independence Day celebrations. I expected an easy assignment talking about families and fireworks. Then the newsroom called with an urgent message: I needed to ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
15 arrested in Hillsborough construction fraud sting, one for the eighth time

15 arrested in Hillsborough construction fraud sting, one for the eighth time

TAMPA — The contractors arriving at the Brandon home thought they were meeting with a potential customer. They were wrong.In fact, the would-be clients were undercover detectives and the contractors, lacking a license to ply their trade, left the hom...
Updated: 5 hours ago
As Border Patrol searches its buses, Greyhound is pulled into immigration uproar

As Border Patrol searches its buses, Greyhound is pulled into immigration uproar

He was a 12-year Miami resident originally from Trinidad, taken off a Greyhound bus in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, by U.S. Border Patrol agents in January.She was a 60-something Jamaican national who had just met her granddaughter for the first time, w...
Updated: 6 hours ago