Jury selection to continue in Entwistle murder trial
Several potential jurors were excused Monday from serving on a British man's double murder trial, with many saying they know about the case from intense media coverage and would have a hard time being fair.
Neil Entwistle, 29, is accused of killing his wife, Rachel, 27, and daughter, Lillian Rose, 9 months, on Jan. 20, 2006, in the Hopkinton home they rented.
Monday, on the first day of trial, his lawyer, Elliot Weinstein, asked Judge Diane Kottmyer to reconsider her ruling on his request to dismiss the charges or to change the location of the trial. He had made the same request at a hearing on Friday.
She denied his request, and then denied his motion to have Kottmyer ask jurors how they feel about those who use the Internet to visit Web sites that focus on sex.
During a recess, Weinstein complained that the judge is hindering his ability to pick an impartial jury by not allowing him to question potential jurors about what they know about the case through news reports.
“Our concern here is that the questioning that the judge is doing is designed not to elicit the jurors’ attitudes, but to foreclose the jurors from articulating their attitudes, and that's a problem,” Weinstein said.
The judge questioned 41 people of whom only eight have been named qualified jurors.
That does not mean they have been named to the jury. Kottmyer will have to name 16 qualified jurors. Those 16 will then be seated in the courtroom, but both prosecutor Michael Fabbri and Weinstein can each disqualify 16 jurors without cause.
Jury selection will continue until there are 16 unchallenged jurors. Lawyers can also challenge as many as they want with cause, and Kottmyer rules on each of those challenges.
Of those deemed qualified, five are men and three are women.
Many of those excused Monday said they did not have the time to serve or that serving would be an extreme burden, such as being hurt financially by sitting on a trial expected to last at least three weeks.
Others were dismissed for various other reasons. One man was excused because he interned with the Middlesex District Attorney's office's victim/witness advocate department.
Another man was excused because he said he believes police officers are more trustworthy than average people.
However, several people said they have followed the case through the news, or have heard about the case recently. Some said they did not feel they could be fair in deciding Entwistle's guilt or innocence.
“The case has so much notoriety, I think a lot of people knew what was going on when they saw the news media,” one juror said.
The 165 potential jurors Monday were given a nine-page questionnaire containing 27 questions. Jurors who were not questioned or excused Monday have to return today. Jury selection is expected to last at least another two days.
The list of 164 potential witnesses was also made public. The list encompasses both the prosecution and defense, although the district attorney's office had previously said it plans on calling 50 to 60 witnesses.
Among those on the list are Rachel Entwistle's mother, Priscilla Matterazzo; her stepfather, Joe Matterazzo; and her brother, Jerome Souza.
Also on the list are several Massachusetts State Police troopers, state chemists and Hopkinton Police officers.
Kim Puig, owner of the 6 Cubs Path home, where the murders occurred, is also a potential witness. Twenty-nine witnesses are from England.
Among the British witnesses is Yvonne Brennan, the head teacher at the St. Augustine's High School, where Rachel Entwistle used to teach.
Entwistle is facing life in prison without the chance of parole if convicted. He is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, illegal possession of a firearm and illegal possession of ammunition.
Authorities say Entwistle murdered his wife and daughter with a gun he stole from his wife's parents' Carver home and then returned the gun to the house before fleeing to England.
Prosecutors allege Entwistle killed his wife and daughter to hide a life of mounting debt, online business scams and dissatisfaction with his sex life.
Entwistle is being held without bail at the Middlesex Jail in Cambridge.
Norman Miller can be reached at 508-626-3823 or at email@example.com. For more information on the trial, visit www.entwistlemurdertrial.com.