LARGO — Jury selection has begun in the murder case against Patrick A. Evans, a former Jabil Circuit vice president accused of shooting his wife and her friend.
Attorneys were predicting jury selection would take most if not all of the day and that opening statements would likely begin Tuesday morning.
During some preliminary hearings Monday, defense attorney David Parry asked the judge if jurors could be questioned by attorneys individually, because of pretrial publicity. Parry said the case was covered by local television after the December 2008 shootings. He also said St. Petersburg Times articles had focused on reports of domestic disturbances between Evans and his second and third wives.
Parry said these reports suggested Evans "in some way had been an abusive husband," but said they were based on evidence that would not be admissible in the court case. He said the reports were "more like neighborhood scuttlebutt."
Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Richard Luce said he would allow for individual questioning of potential jurors if they said they remembered the news coverage.
That way, they could discuss the coverage outside of the hearing of other people who might serve on the jury.
Questioning of jurors will take longer than in many other cases, because prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. If potential jurors indicate they flatly oppose the death penalty, that would prevent them from serving in this case.
If the jurors convict Evans of the murders, they will be asked to come back for a penalty phase of the trial to recommend whether Evans should be put to death. That recommendation, either for or against, would then be forwarded to Judge Luce.
Police say that on Dec. 20, 2008, Evans went to the Gulfport condo where his estranged wife Elizabeth K. Evans lived. She was there with her friend, Jerry B. Taylor, 43. Evans is accused of pulling out his handgun and killing them both.
Prosecutors intend to use an intriguing piece of evidence in the trial: a 911 recording of the murder, made when someone called emergency dispatchers from the condo.