Defense attorneys for Stow teenager Brogan Rafferty paved the way for him to remain silent at his Summit County trial as the first of two defendants accused of luring victims to their death through bogus Craigslist want ads.
After more than two hours of general questioning of more than 50 potential jurors Thursday afternoon, prosecution and defense lawyers selected a jury and six alternates.
Common Pleas Judge Lynne Callahan, who is handling the case, told the jury pool that six alternates would be needed, and some possibly used, “because of the length of the trial.” She has set aside six weeks for the presentation of evidence and testimony.
Opening statements are scheduled to begin at 9 this morning.
Rafferty, 17, a former Stow-Munroe Falls High School student, is charged with multiple counts of aggravated murder and other crimes in the deaths of three men who answered online ads for a nonexistent job in southern Ohio.
Attorney Jill Flagg, one of three members of Rafferty’s defense team, asked the full pool of jurors what they would think “if we don’t have Brogan testify?”
“You do the best with what you have, whether he speaks or not,” a female juror said.
A male juror said he would not hold it against the teen, but acknowledged that, naturally, he would be interested in what he said if he did take the stand.
No other jurors spoke about the issue.
In a development not always seen in high-profile murder trials, attorneys from both sides selected the panel in Callahan’s chambers, under her supervision, while the full jury pool waited in open court.
When the lawyers and the judge came back, Callahan read the numbers of the excused jurors, each one leaving the courtroom, until the final 18 remained in their seats.
Afterward, Callahan said it is her preference to pick a jury in such a way.
“I don’t want the jurors to read anything” into why another potential juror was excluded, she said.
Flagg also told the jury pool that a “duress defense” will be used at trial. She then asked if jurors understood the term.
“It’s when you’re feeling you’re forced to do something you might not want to do,” a female juror said.
Lawyers for the prosecution have said in previous court proceedings that authorities have linked an older Akron man, Richard Beasley, and Rafferty to the series of shooting deaths and one attempted murder.
A male juror said Tuesday, when jury selection began, that he did not know much about the Craigslist case, except for his impression that Beasley had somehow taken Rafferty under his wing.
Rafferty was 16 at the time of the slayings.
Beasley, who faces multiple death-penalty specifications attached to his aggravated murder charges, is set to go to trial Jan. 7.
Paul Scarsella, an assistant prosecutor in the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, drew the most responses from the jury pool when he discussed Rafferty’s standing as a juvenile.
Scarsella stressed there has been a court ruling to have the teen tried as an adult.
“It’s a decision in this case that has already been made,” he told members of the jury pool, noting that they should have no issues with that finding under Ohio law.
Despite the fact Rafferty is 17 years old, “nothing about the trial itself is any different,” Scarsella said.
Rafferty, he said, still has all of the same rights and protections, first and foremost the presumption of innocence, as he would if he were of adult age.
Ed Meyer can be reached at 30-996-3784 or email@example.com.