WORCESTER — One prospective juror, sitting feet away from the black defendant, said he was “prejudiced against all minorities.” One woman burst into tears when she learned one of the victims was a toddler. A 45-year-old truck driver said he had followed the case closely in the news and knew that a key prosecution witness had changed his story. It would be too hard to believe that witness, he said.
In an effort to find an impartial jury in the retrial of Dwayne Moore, accused of killing four people in Mattapan in 2010, a Suffolk judge ruled earlier this month that the panel would be selected in Worcester. The glare of news coverage had been too intense to trust that an untainted jury pool could be found in Boston.
But finding impartial jurors one hour away is shaping up to be no easy feat, either, defense and prosecutors learned during jury selection Tuesday.
“That’s a waste of my taxpayer’s dollars in there,” the truck driver, Michael Simoncini, said after he was excused, pointing to Courtroom 17, where more than 30 people were questioned by Judge Jeffrey Locke to determine whether they could be suitable jurors.
By the end of the day, only four men and two women were deemed qualified. They could still be dismissed this week if the prosecution or the defense objects to them.
Many were rejected because they said serving on a trial that could last at least a month would hurt them too much economically or interfere with appointments.
Janice Brusa, a 58-year-old Worcester nanny to two children, was dismissed because Locke worried her employers might replace her permanently if she were gone too long.
“Phew, now I can have a cigarette,” Brusa said after she left.
The jury that is finally selected will have to travel from Worcester on a bus to Boston every morning during rush-hour and will be bused back in the afternoon. Transporting the jurors is expected to cost $850 a day and will probably shorten trial days to 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The shortened days, in turn, could increase the length of the trial. The first trial, which ended in a hung jury for Moore and an acquittal for his codefendant, Edward Washington, lasted more than a month.
A significant number who came before Locke were let go because they admitted to bias. A surprising number of prospective jurors, 18 by defense attorney John Amabile’s count, said they had seen something in the news about the case.
Over Amabile’s objection, Locke kept one as a potential juror, even after he said that the coverage initially led him to assume that Moore was guilty.
Locke said he believed the man when he said he could overcome his impressions and look strictly at the evidence.
“He said he would put that aside, so I’m satisfied,” he said.
Amabile said the large number of people familiar with the case showed jury selection should be moved even farther away from Boston’s media market. Locke declined, stating that only a small number admitted their judgment would be tainted by news coverage.
Most in the pool of about 90 people were white, a stark contrast to Suffolk juries, which tend to be racially diverse.
Two said Moore’s race — Moore is black — would affect their ability to be fair. One young man seemed close to tears as he tried to explain that he has racist relatives.
“I try not to be,” he said, just before Locke excused him.
Even prospective jurors with no knowledge of the case said the simple facts Locke told them about the violent killings and the age of the youngest victim would be too disturbing.
Moore is charged in the killings of Simba Martin, 21; a friend, Levaughn Washum-
Garrison; and Martin’s girlfriend, Eyanna Flonory, who was found cradling her 2-year-old son, Amanihotep Smith.
Locke asked Heather Fuller, 41, if she would be able to put aside her emotions about the killing of the boy.
“That certainly weighs heavily,” said Fuller, who has a girl.
“It weighs heavily on all of us,” Locke said gently. “Does it weigh heavily on you because you have a young child?”
Tears streaming down her face, Fuller was too upset to answer. Locke excused her.
Remaining potential jurors will be questioned Wednesday.