Jury Selection in Capital Murder Case Underway
BROWNSVILLE – Hundreds are called-in for the job.
“To have different perspectives when it comes to cases," said Evangelina Dominguez, once called to jury duty.
Not everyone has what it takes to make it.
"I'm Hispanic and I have a master's degree, so I thought I had all the background that would be needed," Dominguez said, "that somebody like me would be qualified to participate, but I was not chosen."
Right now, state attorneys for the Willacy County District Attorney's Office and defense attorneys for a man accused of capital murder are questioning 400 potential Cameron County jurors one by one. Each juror questioned for 30 minutes each.
They are trying to pick the fairest jury in the trial for Gustavo Tijerina-Sandoval. He's facing the death penalty.
He's accused of the 2014 murder of border patrol agent Javier Vega, Jr. Tijerina-Sandoval allegedly gunned him down during a botched robbery near a Santa Monica canal.
"You have someone's life in your hands and the state is asking them to pay the ultimate price," attorney Adolfo Cordova said, "so when you have 500 people's opinions or beliefs, you have to cipher through. It's a pretty significant task."
Cordova has been an attorney for about 25 years. He's been in this situation before. He said the ideal juror is one that is open to listening to the facts of a case before making a decision.
Deciding who that person is, is not as easy as it sounds.
"It doesn't come in the form of a woman or a man, young or old, educated or uneducated," Cordova said. "It's just basically their life experience that they bring to the table."
When people are summoned for jury duty, potential jurors also fill out a questionnaire.
Cordova said this gives attorneys an opportunity to learn about the jurors and question them on other topics.
"What's their favorite television show, some lawyers like to ask what bumper stickers they have on their car, things of that nature because they feel like that's a window to their soul," said Cordova.
The most important thing attorneys want to know about a juror in a case like this is what information they already know about the case and, "their feelings towards the death penalty."
A juror too far to either side will be scratched.
State and defense attorneys and State District Judge Migdalia Lopez, Cordova added, will all have to agree on each of the 12 jurors plus two alternates before this case can continue to the next phase.
This process could take about three weeks. Cordova said attorneys would prefer to take their time and do it right the first time than have to start this process all over again.
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