Jury selection began Monday in the Christopher Porco murder trial in Orange County Supreme Court in Goshen. Porco is accused of killing his father and severely wounding his mother with an ax inside their Brockley Drive home in Delmar in 2004.
The trial was moved from Albany to Orange County last week by a state Appellate Court in Brooklyn because of the intense media surrounding the case, and the problems it could pose in picking a jury in Albany County.
`It has been an inconvenience,` said Michael McDermott, assistant Albany County district attorney and chief prosecutor in the case. `Everybody working on the trial has been in Goshen since last Wednesday.`
Judge Jeffrey Berry scheduled three different rounds of jury pre-screening over a two-day period. The first 80 prospective jurists walked into the courtroom around 10:45 a.m. only to be followed minutes later with close to half the 80-member jury pool excluding themselves from the trial because of time constraints.
`Our biggest hurdle is to find jurors willing to sit from four to six weeks,` said McDermott.
One potential juror who identified himself only as Jose said he was from Newburgh, worked in Connecticut and knew nothing about the case.
`My boss didn’t take it very well when he heard I was on the jury,` he said.
Berry asked potential jurors four questions:
Do you have the ability to serve as a juror for a trial that could last up four to five weeks?
How many people have heard about the case?
How many people, because of the nature of the crime, cannot be a fair or impartial juror?
How many people for any other reason feel they cannot be fair or impartial?
A handful of people raised their hands to be excused because they had already heard about the case.
`This is especially delightful,` said Defense Attorney Terence Kindlon. `Of all the people we saw this morning, only three of them had any information on this case at all.` Another five to six people asked to be excused after they had been told the way in which the crime was committed.
Only two members of the media could be present at one time while potential jurors were being pre-screened by the attorneys. That left the remainder of the TV, newspaper and other electronic media journalists to wait and sit outside the courtroom.
Meanwhile as of late Monday afternoon, June 26, there was still no word about when Berry would release his ruling on pre-trial evidence, including a six-and-one-half hour interrogation of Christopher Porco by Bethlehem police, and a nod some witnesses say Joan Porco gave to police the morning after the attacks, allegedly indicating her son Christopher had committed the heinous crime. Joan Porco has no recollection of the attacks since that time and denies her son is responsible for the crime.
Once again, Christopher Porco escorted his mother into the Orange County Courthouse with camera lights flashing. McDermott said there are 135 witnesses for the prosecution and 90 percent of those witnesses will be called, including Joan Porco.
`Joan has been served a subpoena and is on our list,` said McDermott.
Joan Porco attended every day of the pre-trial hearings in Albany County Court, but McDermott believes she should not be in the courtroom when the trial begins.
`We are going to ask the judge to exclude all witnesses from the courtroom,` McDermott said.
`All we are looking for is a fair trial,` said Kindlon. `Hardly anybody knows about the case here.`
McDermott believes the jury will be selected and seated no later than late Tuesday.
`It throws a monkey wrench in our plan being down here, but we’re confident,` McDermott said.
`So far there is nothing especially good and nothing especially bad,` Kindlon said. `Just normal.`
The trial is expected to immediately follow jury selection.
When the Christopher Porco murder trial begins, Spotlight Newspapers will post daily coverage on its Web site, www.spotlightnews.com.