Half of the nearly 100 potential jurors called into a Baton Rouge courtroom Monday for the start of jury selection in the second-degree murder trial of alleged serial killer Jeffery Lee Guillory indicated they have read or heard of Guillory.
When state District Judge Tony Marabella informed the group of 96 prospective jurors that the case involved Guillory, a number of them groaned loudly at the mere mention of his name.
The judge, prosecutor Dana Cummings and Guillory’s defense team have begun the arduous process of trying to determine whether potential jurors who have heard of the case have also formed opinions about Guillory’s guilt or innocence.
Guillory, who was arrested in December 2009 in the deaths of three Baton Rouge women, is standing trial only in the 2002 slaying of 46-year-old Renee Newman.
One prospective juror was excused Monday after he revealed he graduated from high school with Newman and knew her quite well.
Another potential juror was excused after she acknowledged she had Guillory confused with convicted Baton Rouge serial murderer Sean Vincent Gillis.
Guillory’s attorneys contend Gillis associated with Newman, and they have subpoenaed Gillis to testify at the trial. Whether Gillis steps foot in the courthouse remains to be seen.
Guillory, 45, wore a suit and tie in the courtroom Monday, as opposed to the orange and white prison jumpsuit that he has donned at all previous court appearances.
Marabella told potential jurors the trial is expected to continue into the weekend and perhaps as late as Monday or Tuesday.
Several people were excused from serving on the case after they complained that doing so would create severe hardship.
Guillory faces an automatic sentence of life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder in Newman’s death.
He already is serving a 50-year sentence in the second-degree robbery and attempted second-degree murder of a woman in Lafayette in 2007.
Newman’s body was found April 11, 2002, behind the old Maison Blanche/Goudchaux’s building on Laurel Street.
Authorities have said DNA evidence found at the crime scene links Guillory to the crime.
He also is accused in the deaths of Florida Edwards and Sylvia Cobb, both 36, of Baton Rouge, in 1999 and 2001, respectively.
Guillory remains a suspect in several other unsolved killings of women in Baton Rouge that occurred in the late 1990s and early 2000s.