AMITE — A jury of six men, six women and two alternates was seated Saturday in the first-degree murder trial of Michael Varnado, accused of killing a woman and her two children.
Testimony begins at 8:30 a.m. Sunday in 21st Judicial District Court in the Tangipahoa Parish Courthouse at Amite.
Varnado, 33, is accused of the Feb. 16, 2007, smothering death of his girlfriend, Juana Quantrell Roberts, 20, of Hammond; setting her Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer on fire; and leaving her infant and toddler behind in the burning trailer.
Before the jury was sworn in, Varnado defense attorney Steve Lemoine argued that the state had discriminated in its use of challenges to remove black potential jurors.
Assistant District Attorney Don Wall used four challenges to remove black potential jurors from the pool, according to a count by District Judge Wayne Ray Chutz.
Wall countered by arguing that the prosecution had accepted three black jurors who were challenged by the defense.
Chutz permitted the challenges to stand.
The jury was sworn in at the end of six sometimes-long days of jury selection that involved at least three rounds of question for each juror.
Approximately 123 reported for duty Monday morning after some 500 notices were sent out, Tangipahoa Parish Clerk of Court Julian Dufreche said.