Crime & Courts

Jury selection in Tim Jones trial weeds out jurors with strong feelings on death penalty

John Monk

State Judge Eugene Griffith explained to a middle-aged potential juror Wednesday afternoon that there are three types of people being considered for jury duty in the upcoming Lexington County death penalty trial of Tim Jones, charged with killing his five children.

Type 1, Griffith said, will always impose the death penalty after being certain there’s enough evidence.

Type 2 will never impose the death penalty and impose a life sentence without parole after finding a defendant guilty.

But type 3 people keep an open mind after hearing arguments for and against the death penalty..

“They can listen to whatever is presented to them,” Griffith said. “How do you classify yourself?”

The man didn’t hesitate. “Type 1,” he said.

Griffith didn’t blink. “Thank you,” he said, excusing the man from jury duty in Jones’ highly anticipated trial.

Jurors on a death penalty case must be able to consider both a life sentence or death as possible punishments. “You are free to go.”

Around 5 p.m., the judge disqualified another woman who described herself as a “Type 1.”

So it went Wednesday as potential juror after potential juror came to the witness stand for questioning first by Griffith, then by Jones’ lawyers and finally by the prosecution about whether they would make a “fair and impartial juror.”

By 5 p.m., four more potential jurors been chosen. Just one was chosen Tuesday, the first day of jury selection.

Lawyers and Griffith are working to build a pool of up to 50 potential jurors, enough for a 12-person jury, three to six alternates and a few dozen strikes allotted to both defense and prosecution to keep people off the jury they have reservations about.

Jones, 37, is accused of killing his five children by strangling them or beating, then putting their bodies in garbage bags and driving around the Southeast for more than a week before leaving them in shallow graves in rural Alabama. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. The defense is asserting Jones is not guilty by reason of insanity.

On Monday, Griffith had informed some 185 potential jurors that they had been called for the Jones case. He warned them not to talk about it with anyone and to avoid news reports about the case.

On Wednesday, Griffith quizzed each of about a half-dozen potential jurors about how well they were avoiding conversations about the case.

“My husband still thinks this is a case where you are coming in for traffic tickets,” one woman in her sixties told Griffith.

The woman, who had one point said, “I love law enforcement,” was eventually disqualified after telling the judge that the graphic nature of this case would affect her judgment in the case.

Shortly after 6 p.m., a woman in her 30s who taught music was disqualified after telling the judge she was a Type 2 and could never impose the death penalty.

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