Court qualifies 44 potential jurors in Cutts trial

Shane Hoover

Speaking mathematically, there should be enough jurors to hear the trial of Bobby L. Cutts Jr., but his lawyers still could ask to move the proceedings to another county.

After questioning small groups of prospective jurors Monday about their views of the death penalty and pretrial publicity, the court qualified 44 to serve. Final jury selection will be Wednesday.

There needs to be at least 36 prospective jurors to seat a 12-member panel and six alternates, given the number of challenges possessed by both the prosecution and defense.

Judges typically qualify more jurors than the minimum and Stark County Common Pleas Judge Charles E. Brown Jr. hasn’t indicated a cutoff number.

Group questioning will continue today.

After Monday’s hearings, attorney Fernando Mack said the defense had not ruled out asking the judge for a change of venue, but the focus remains finding fair and impartial jurors.

Cutts’ trial is scheduled to start Monday. The 30-year-old former Canton police officer has pleaded not guilty to charges that he killed Jessie M. Davis, 26, of Lake Township and her unborn daughter in June. Cutts and Davis had a 2-year-old son together.

Cutts faces three counts of aggravated murder, two counts of gross abuse of a corpse, aggravated burglary and misdemeanor endangering children. One of the murder charges is tied to the death of Davis; the remaining two involve her unborn child.

If convicted of aggravated murder, Cutts of Plain Township faces a possible death sentence.

Many of the prospective jurors questioned Monday said they could set aside their opinions of the case and follow the law. Some said their feelings for or against the death penalty prevented them from being fair.

Others said they could consider -- if Cutts is convicted -- all the sentencing options, including the death penalty and life in prison with or without parole eligibility.

The Repository