As the week wound down Friday, jurors tallied fewer than 1/2 the number needed
to try a Gary man accused of murdering his wife and 2 stepchildren.
Only 6 of the needed 12 jurors and 2 alternates had been selected.
Kevin Isom, 46, faces the death penalty if convicted of the Aug. 6, 2007,
shooting of his wife, Cassandra, 40, and her children, Michael Moore, 16, and
Ci'Andria Cole, 13, in the Lakeshore Dunes Apartments in Gary's Miller
In most such high-level felony cases, court watchers see prospective jurors
questioned as a group of 12 with the number of excused jurors immediately
replaced by a like number from the jury pool seated in the courtroom.
Jury selection seldom takes more than a day.
But Isom's 270-member jury pool is being whittled down one by one, which is why
it is taking so long. Beginning a week ago, jury selection began as early as 8
a.m. and ended as late as 7 p.m.
Unlike most trials, members of Isom's jury pool are not present during the
intensive questioning by Lake Criminal Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr. and/or
attorneys for the state and the defense.
Yet court officials familiar with the process said last week the individualized
approach used in Isom's trial is not that unusual and is not specific to Isom's
being at risk of the death penalty if convicted.
"It's not unheard of, but it's not in every case," said veteran defense
attorney Thomas Vanes, of Merrillville.
Vanes said the manner and mode of choosing a jury tend to be "case-sensitive,"
and procedures can vary by court.
For example, in federal courts in the area, all questioning of potential jurors
is conducted solely by the judge. But in Lake County, the judge as well as
prosecuting and defense attorneys may ask questions.
"Questions can be submitted by both sides, but the questions are to be asked by
the judge" in federal cases, Vanes said.
Another Lake County official familiar with the courts, who asked not to be
named because of the sensitivity of the death penalty case, said defense
attorneys often request individual questioning be done to prevent the views
expressed by jurors during questioning to affect the rest of the jury pool.
"The 1st task is to find the person guilty or not guilty, like in any other
murder case," he said of Isom's trial. "Then, it moves into the penalty phase."
After conviction, jurors also have the option of choosing life without the
possibility of parole in lieu of death.
(source: NW Indiana Times)