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Jury selection today on shooting charges

A woman is accused of paralyzing her daughter, who later chose to be taken off life support.

When police officers arrived at Georgette Smith's cramped apartment, they found her lying on her back in a bedroom, a bullet lodged in her spine.

Her half-blind, 68-year-old mother, Shirley Egan, was shaking in the hallway, telling police she had meant only to scare her daughter, not shoot her. Police say Egan also tried to shoot Smith's live-in boyfriend.

Jury selection begins today in Egan's trial on two attempted murder charges in a case that attracted national attention this spring after Smith, paralyzed from the neck down, won the right to be taken off life support and die.

Prosecutors at first considered pursuing a murder charge against Egan but changed their minds, citing Egan's declining health and closeness with her daughter.

Much of the trial may hinge on a videotaped deposition Smith gave May 18, the day before she died. In the deposition, Egan repeatedly apologized to her daughter, and Smith told attorneys that she didn't think her mother meant to shoot her.

The bullet tore through Smith's spinal cord, leaving her barely able to speak, incapable of swallowing and unable to control her bladder. She was fed through a tube and ran a high risk of pneumonia, infections, ulcers and bedsores.

"I'm sure it was accidental. I know it was," said Smith, 42. "She can't see that good."

Neither Egan's defense attorney, Bob Wesley, nor Lori Roberson, a spokeswoman for the State Attorney's Office, would comment.

But some legal experts said that it's crucial that Egan's defense attorney convince jurors that the shooting was unintentional.

"Any case where there isn't any question that the defendant held the weapon and shot the victim is not an easy case to defend," said Neal Sonnett, a Miami defense attorney and past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

What is still largely unknown is why Egan fired her gun in the March incident in the first place. Initial reports stated that Egan became upset after she overheard a discussion about placing her in an assisted-care facility.

In the deposition, however, Smith said she had talked about getting in-home care for her mother.

She added that her live-in boyfriend, Larry Videlock, was verbally abusive to her mother. In a police report, Egan said that her daughter and Videlock were teasing her at the time and she wanted to scare them.

Based on the deposition, Egan's defense attorney also may focus on the rocky relationship between Videlock and the two women.

Smith said Videlock was interested in her mother's money and that he wanted the women to help him financially. Egan was hiding $7,300 in cash at the time in the bathroom medicine cabinet.

Egan, who has emphysema, is blind in one eye and requires a wheelchair, may make a sympathetic defendant for jurors who are unwilling to send to prison an elderly and infirm woman, legal experts said.