A jury was selected Monday in the Summit County Juvenile Court trial of a Barberton teen accused of rape and murder in the 2011 death of his 3-year-old half sister.
D’Marques “DJ” Jones, 17, was present in court with his attorneys, Scott Rilley and Greg Price, during juror questioning in Judge Linda Tucci Teodosio’s court at the juvenile justice center on Dan Street.
It is the first jury trial of a minor in Summit juvenile court history, Rilley said.
Jones was 15 when Makayla Jones died June 22, 2011, at Akron Children’s Hospital. According to autopsy results, her cause of death was “multisystem organ failure,” a medical term for serious infection from traumatic injuries over a period of time.
Authorities suspect the girl was raped repeatedly with an object, based on forensic DNA tests of various items sent by police to the state crime lab, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation.
Summit County Assistant Prosecutor Brian LoPrinzi, the government’s lead attorney in the case, told potential jurors that this is what is known as a “felony murder case.”
LoPrinzi said the state will not accuse Jones of “purposefully killing his half-sister.”
But Ohio law, he said, does provide for a murder statute as a proximate result of committing the felony of rape, thus the term “felony murder.”
LoPrinzi also told jurors that one of the state’s concerns is the “youthfulness” of the defendant at the time of Makayla’s death.
He then asked if any jurors felt it would cloud their thinking — the idea that being so young, Jones could not possibly have done this.
None said it would.
Teodosio set aside a full week for the trial, court spokesman Don Ursetti said.
In brief remarks to the potential jurors, Teodosio told them the case was about the death of a toddler and that a young man had been accused of rape and murder.
The judge also said there has been “sporadic publicity” about the case, and she then asked how many had read about it, heard about it in radio reports or seen something about it in television newscasts.
Eighteen potential jurors said they had.
Teodosio, Jones and attorneys from both sides questioned those jurors individually in the jury room before the lunch break.
Afterward, Rilley spoke briefly to jurors, saying the notion that “where there is smoke, there is fire, does not have a place anywhere near this courthouse in this process.”
Rilley said he and his co-counsel do not have an obligation to say one word when it comes time for the defense to present its side of the case.
The state, he stressed, his voice rising as he stood before the jury box, has the sole burden to prove every single element of each charge against Jones.
“Two out of three is not good enough,” Rilley told the panel.
Twelve jurors and two alternates were selected at 4:30 p.m.
Opening statements are scheduled to begin this morning.