LISBON - It took an entire day, but eventually a jury was seated Tuesday for the murder trial of Miranda Todd, the 24-year-old Salem-area woman accused in the 2010 death of her 7-month-old son.
From 65 potential jurors, the field eventually was pared down to 12 jurors and two alternates. Eight men and four women will be asked to decide Todd's guilt or innocence in a trial court officials believe will go long into next week.
Opening statements are scheduled this morning. On Tuesday morning, the first 40 jurors on the list of 65 were invited one at a time into Judge Scott Washam's courtroom. They were asked if they had any prior knowledge of the case; if they read about it in a newspaper, on the internet or heard about it on television; if they knew Todd or her son, Derek Dennison. They were asked if they would agree to be fair and impartial.
Based on their answers to those questions, along with additional follow up questions posed by both the prosecution and the defense attorneys, six of the 40 were eliminated immediately. The rest were sent back into the hall to be recalled after lunch.
Following lunch, attorneys from both sides agreed to eliminate four additional jurors. The remaining 30 were brought into the courtroom and questioned as a group. A two-page list of potential witnesses were given to potential jurors during jury selection. They were asked if there was anyone they knew from that list, as well as anyone they know from the prosecutor's office or working on behalf of the defense team.
They also were asked questions to give an idea about some of the testimony which may be presented. They were asked how uncomfortable they would be to see "graphic photographs" from the autopsy and the funeral of the baby and whether it would cause them to be unable to be fair and serve on the jury.
"It's possible, I don't know," said one juror candidate who later was eliminated. "I don't know all the facts, but the fact that it's a little child is tough. I couldn't say 100 percent."
Potential jurors were asked if there had been any instances of child abuse, rib fractures or head injuries in their personal lives or to those close to them. Assistant prosecutor Tim McNicol asked potential jurors if they could all agree a rib injury is a painful injury, receiving several nods from the group.
McNicol also explained that the involuntary manslaughter charge Todd faces stems from accusations she failed to get Dennison the medical care he required after he sustained injuries over a three-week period during the first three weeks of July 2010. The baby allegedly died of those injuries late in the night on July 22.
Potential jurors also were asked about their ability to be fair and impartial if evidence was presented about the defendant's involvement in an alternative lifestyle. McNicol relayed the trial would include a lot of talk about drug use and a sexual relationship between three people.
Defense attorney Charlie Kidder later explained the alternative lifestyle includes one man and two women and several children living together in the same house.
Perhaps indicating one of the defense tactics, Kidder asked potential jurors if any of them who had children or grandchildren believed it was not fine to leave the child in the care of a babysitter from time to time.
Of those selected, one is a corrections officer, one has a son who was a police officer and one of the alternates also is a corrections officer and former police officer. One of the correction officers involved works at the prison where one of the potential witnesses in the case is housed.
One juror's wife works at Circle K, West State Street, Salem. He was questioned about his relationship with his wife's boss at the store, who is another person on the juror list. Several are retired individuals. One juror lives in this county, but works elsewhere, so he said he pays no attention to local news.
Jurors sometimes were eliminated after long discussions conducted in whispered tones at Washam's bench, which were recorded by the court reporter, but inaudible to anyone in the courtroom. Others were asked to leave by either the prosecution or defense attorneys, who were each given four chances to eliminate a juror, along with one chance each for picking the alternates.
Todd faces up to life in prison if convicted of all three charges. The murder charge carries a 15-years-to-life sentence. Additionally, she is charged with involuntary manslaughter and endangering children, charges with maximum sentences of 10 years and five years, respectively.