WOBURN — Nathaniel Fujita, a young Wayland man accused of killing his former girlfriend in July 2011, will probably invoke the insanity defense at his trial, Judge Peter Lauriat told prospective jurors as jury selection began Monday.
“Mr. Fujita will likely be raising the issue of lack of criminal responsibility, commonly described as the insanity defense,” the judge informed potential jurors in Middlesex Superior Court.
Fujita, 20, began crying in court as he was introduced to the prospective jurors, covering his eyes and choking back several sobs. His parents sat behind him in the front row. They declined to speak to a reporter.
“I think it’s an emotional moment when the trial begins,” said Fujita’s lawyer, William Sullivan.
Fujita was 18 on July 3, 2011, when prosecutors say he choked and slashed to death his former high school sweetheart, Lauren Astley, 18, and dumped her body in a wooded marsh near Water Row in Wayland. The two had dated since ninth grade, but their relationship had ended in April 2011, authorities said.
The murder shocked the small suburb, which had not seen a homicide in more than 25 years.
Prosecutors have charged Fujita with first-degree murder, two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and one count of assault and battery.
If convicted, he faces life in prison without parole.
Sullivan declined to comment on whether his client would pursue the insanity defense. Sullivan filed a notice of intent to use the defense in September, according to court documents, but simply filing intent does not guarantee that the defense will be used.
Three men and four women were selected Monday from a pool of 92 prospective jurors to serve on the jury.
Many potential jurors were excused over concerns about the length of the trial; others were excused after they said they had been following news coverage and could not be impartial.
Questions asked of the prospective jurors included whether photographs or testimony depicting graphic bloodshed would make it difficult for them to be impartial; whether they or their families had been treated by a mental health professional; and whether they or their families had ever had “contact with or concern about” drugs or alcohol that would make it difficult to be impartial.
Sullivan declined to say what he was looking for in a jury; prosecutor Lisa McGovern directed questions to the spokeswoman for her office, who declined to comment.
Astley’s father, Malcolm, was also in the courtroom, writing in a notebook during the proceedings. He declined to comment.
Jury selection is set to continue on Tuesday.
The trial is expected to last about three weeks, the judge has said, and the jury will probably begin deliberations in early March.Evan Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.