Entwistle jury seated, opening statements to come Friday

Norman Miller

Four days of jury selection concluded Thursday in the case of a British man accused of murdering his wife and infant daughter, with opening statements scheduled for Friday.

Neil Entwistle, 29, will have his fate decided by a jury of eight men and eight women. The seating of the jury came after Judge Diane Kottmyer questioned 189 potential jurors, dozens of whom said they had already formed an opinion and could not presume Entwistle innocent as the law requires.

Nearly all had said they had heard something about the case, although many said they did not know the details and had not formed opinions.

Entwistle's attorney, Elliot Weinstein, complained several times throughout selection about the questions being asked by Kottmyer. He wanted her questions to draw out jurors on Entwistle's guilt or innocence.

He also said he thought it was impossible for Entwistle to get a fair trial. On Wednesday, one woman, later excused as a juror, said she heard other potential jurors say ``Fry him,'' and "Send him away,'' while waiting in line at court.

But Thursday, after the jury was selected, Weinstein sounded confident.

"We believe ... we know with certainty that at the end of these proceedings Neil Entwistle will be found not guilty,'' he told reporters in the court's parking lot.

As for the jury, most members appear to be in their 20s.

Also Thursday, Kottmyer ruled that the jury will not visit the home at 6 Cubs Path Lane in Hopkinton, where authorities say Entwistle murdered his wife, Rachel, 27, and 9-month-old daughter Lillian Rose, on Jan. 20, 2006.

The jury will also not visit Rachel Entwistle's parents' Carver home, where prosecutors allege Entwistle stole the gun used to shoot his family.

Last week, both Weinstein and prosecutor Michael Fabbri had asked the judge to allow those visits.

Kottmyer questioned their value.

"What is it about the view that will be helpful to the jurors,'' said Kottmyer. "As far as I know, there is a new family in the house. It seems to me the furniture in the house, the belongings in the house and the surroundings will be different than the day of the alleged crimes.''

After Kottmyer's decision, Fabbri agreed and said jurors did not have to make that trip because he could show them through photos, videos and diagrams the same things they could see in person.

Weinstein pressed for the visit.

A visit to the Hopkinton house is the only way jurors could get a real feel for the location, he said. Weinstein also said he was surprised that the judge would not allow the visit.

"The resistance I'm getting today is unique,'' he said.

A trip to the Carver home is also unnecessary, Kottmyer said.

She said she was worried it could prejudice the jury because Rachel Entwistle's parents, Priscilla and Joe Matterazzo, are witnesses and the parents and grandparents of the victims.

"I do not see a compelling reason in this case,'' Kottmyer said.

Weinstein again disagreed.

"A man is facing life in prison if convicted of murder,'' he said. "That's my compelling reason.''

The judge said she would reconsider her decision during trial if it appeared the visits would be necessary.

Both Fabbri and Weinstein are scheduled to make opening statements Friday morning.

Witness testimony could also begin Friday.

Both sides submitted a list with more than 160 witnesses, but not all are likely to testify.

The trial is expected to last about three weeks, although Kottmyer told jurors it could extend as far as July 3.

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 to hide a life of debt, an unhappy sex life and business scams.

Norman Miller can be reached at 508-626-3823 or nmiller@cnc.com.