Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Jury Selection Begins in Cuadra Trial

4:30 PM: A court watcher tells me that Kocis' family was present today, unsure if any of Harlow or Joe's family was there... will try to have an answer to that tomorrow.

4:16 PM: The Times Leader reports that one person has been selected to the jury panel for the Luzerne County capital murder case of Harlow Cuadra.

Ten prospective jurors were questioned by Court of Common Pleas Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr., assistant district attorneys and defense lawyers Tuesday afternoon.

A woman in her 60s, who is also a diabetic, was chosen. She was the first juror questioned individually.

Prosecutors dismissed three people, and Cuadra's lawyers dismissed two.

Each side was given 20 excuses to dismiss prospective jurors.

Jury selection is scheduled to resume Wednesday morning.

3:04 PM: Defense's motion to suppress the evidence seized from the BMW in Virginia Beach, VA has been denied.

1:10 PM: According to the Citizens' Voice... jury selection began Tuesday morning in the capital homicide case of Harlow Cuadra.

Cuadra, 27, of Virginia Beach, Va., is accused of killing Bryan Kocis in his Dallas Township home in January 2007. Prosecutors say Cuarda and his business partner, Joseph Kerekes, plotted to kill Kocis, a rival producer of gay pornography.

Luzerne County Judge Peter Paul Olszewski asked general questions of 125 possible jurors this morning. All but approximately 20 potential jurors said they had heard about the case.

Twenty of the possible jurors will be individually questioned this afternoon by defense and prosecution attorneys. Twelve jurors and four alternates must be selected. No one has been selected so far.

Cuadra, who faces an open count of homicide, as well as arson and other charges, could face the death penalty if convicted. Cuadra's co-defendant, Kerekes, 44, pleaded guilty Dec. 8 to second-degree murder and other charges and was sentenced to life in prison without parole, the mandatory term for a second-degree murder conviction.

12:52 PM: I'm hearing that they just finished the group address... kept 25 people and sent the rest home for the day. Somewhat surprising (or maybe not)... is that a large group of people indicated that they know absolutely nothing about the case.

12:16 PM: Sources tell me that as of 12:05 PM, individual voir dire has not begun.

10:18 AM: Sources tell me that it'll start with all of the prospective jurors coming in and filling out a giant questionaire... the panel will be talked to as a whole or in groups... and then everyone will review the questions and individually call up every single person and ask the same questions over and over. I'm told not to expect any more than 1 or 2 jurors to be seated today.

9:51 AM: The Times Leader is reporting that jury selection is set to begin today in the Luzerne County capital murder trial of Harlow Cuadra, charged in the killing of Bryan Kocis, 44, more than two years ago in Dallas Township.

Prosecutors alleged Cuadra, 27, and his partner, Joseph Kerekes, 35, killed Kocis, whom they considered their rival in the gay pornographic movie industry. Kocis was found dead inside his burned out home on Jan. 24, 2007. Kerekes pleaded guilty to second degree murder in December, and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Two hundred people received notices to report for jury duty at the courthouse this week. Out of that number, 125 prospective jurors will be questioned for the Cuadra trial. The other 75 prospective jurors will be assigned to other trials scheduled this week.

Cuadra's trial before Court of Common Pleas Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. is expected to take two to three weeks.