A Northampton, Massachusetts Superior Court judge has spent this week filling jury seats in the murder trial of Cara Rintala, a Granby woman accused of killing her wife in 2010.
So far 160 potential jurors have been questioned. But only 11 have been seated in three days of jury selection, and 16 are needed to begin the trial. That’s according to the Springfield Republican newspaper. Several factors may make it challenging to find an impartial jury. First, the case has garnered media attention as the first murder case in the state between a married same-sex couple. Second, it has a witness list of 94 people, and potential jurors must identify anyone they know on the list.
“Just knowing one of those 94 witnesses is not a disqualification, but it does make it much more difficult to select a jury,” says Springfield-based defense attorney Don Frank.
Judge Mary Lou Rup has also told jury pools the trial could last up to one month. Frank says potential jurors often can’t commit to a lengthy trial.
“Jurors just can’t sit that long. They miss work, they miss life, they have children in school, they have exams in college. It excludes a lot of people from the jury process all together.”
Frank says employers must pay employees on jury duty for the first three days of a trial. Beyond that, they get $50 a day from the state until a trial ends. But Frank says, for many, the stipend isn’t enough to cover living expenses. Jury selection in the case is scheduled to resume Tuesday.