Drugs, demons, and the occult are among the issues jurors will weigh as they decide the fate of the man accused of killing 2-year-old Bella Bond, lawyers said during the first day of jury selection in Michael McCarthy’s murder trial.
McCarthy has pleaded not guilty to the charge of first-degree murder in Suffolk Superior Court, and the mother of the toddler is expected to be a key prosecution witness against him. Rachelle Bond pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact of murder in February.
During the first day of jury selection on Monday, prosecutors asked prospective jurors whether they could accept the testimony of a mother who failed to report her child’s death for months, and who was testifying as part of a plea. And McCarthy’s lawyer, Jonathan Shapiro, asked prospective jurors whether testimony about McCarthy’s alleged interest in Satanism would prejudice them against him.
Prosecutors allege that McCarthy killed Bella Bond, his girlfriend’s young daughter, because she was “a demon.” A former roommate of McCarthy, whose name appears on a list of potential witnesses in the case, told the Globe in 2015 that McCarthy was obsessed with occult symbols.
McCarthy appeared in court wearing a brown suit and a neatly trimmed beard. Gone were the stringy locks he’d worn after his arrest. He conferred with Shapiro and reviewed paperwork, appearing to participate actively in discussions about jurors. His father and brother, both of whom are included on a list of possible witnesses, appeared to smile briefly to McCarthy from the back of the courtroom.
Judge Janet Sanders said she hoped it would take a week or less to empanel a jury. Three jurors were selected on Monday, and jury selection will resume Tuesday.
Finding jurors with an open mind about the case could prove challenging, and several jurors on Monday described having some knowledge of the case. Others were dismissed based on questionnaires that indicated they had followed the case closely.
Before Bond was identified — her remains were found washed ashore on Deer Island in June 2015 — the girl then known only as Baby Doe graced billboards and news broadcasts all over the region. As the judge described the charges against McCarthy, and identified the victim as the girl once known only as Baby Doe, a handful of the 90 jurors appeared to react with recognition and shock. A few put their heads in their hands; one woman mouthed, “Oh my God.”
One of the three jurors selected on Monday said he moved to Massachusetts a year ago and had never heard anything about the case. Another who was chosen to serve said she had heard very little about the case; she doesn’t follow the news, she said -- it’s too depressing.
McCarthy allegedly murdered Bella Bond in May or June in 2015 and then stored her body in a refrigerator in the Boston apartment he shared with Rachelle Bond, according to Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office.
McCarthy then allegedly forced Rachelle Bond to help him dispose of Bella’s body, which he wrapped in a trash bag, placed in a duffel bag weighted down with barbells, then threw into the harbor in South Boston in early June 2015, according to Suffolk prosecutors. The couple then continued living together and using drugs, prosecutors say.
Joseph Amoroso, Bella Bond’s father, said outside the courtroom that he was hoping for a competent jury and a fair trial. Amoroso, who has said he never met his daughter because he was living in Florida, grieved publicly for the girl after she was identified.
Accompanied by his mother on Monday, Amoroso said the years since his daughter’s death had been “up and down” — records show he has been arrested for larceny and shoplifting — but that he’s made positive changes in his life.
Before jury selection began, Sanders heard brief arguments about whether Rachelle Bond’s mental health diagnosis would be admissible at trial.
Prosecutors filed a motion over the weekend seeking to prohibit McCarthy’s lawyers from introducing the diagnosis without testimony from a psychiatric expert. But Shapiro, the Boston lawyer leading McCarthy’s defense, said he had no plans to introduce the diagnosis.
The specific diagnosis was not mentioned in court.