Jury selection takes longer than expected

  • Lewis Starkey III, left, sits beside Michael Sheridan, his attorney, during jury selection for his murder trial in Franklin Superior Court on Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 4/3/2019 12:29:12 PM

GREENFIELD — After two days and 129 interviews, a jury has still not been impaneled in the Lewis H. Starkey III trial, leading the judge to consider lowering the target number for jurors.

Starkey, 55, is accused of murdering his girlfriend, Amanda Glover, at the home they shared at 179 West St. in Wendell on July 5, 2017. He then allegedly fired his shotgun at Amanda Glover’s adult son, Devin Glover, who escaped into the surrounding woods and called the police. Starkey has pleaded not guilty.

Tuesday saw three jurors impaneled in the Franklin Superior Court case, two men and a woman, bringing the total number of jurors to 11. Originally, the goal was to impanel 16 jurors, but Judge John Agostini said the court may go with 14 jurors, or even 13 due to the difficulty during impanelment.

“Does anybody else share my pessimism?” Agostini asked at the end of the day.

Many of the potential jurors have been excused for having formed opinions about the case from media coverage, or admitting to trusting the testimony of police more than that of private citizens.

Others have been dismissed for knowing various parties involved in the case, including two people Tuesday who knew Starkey, describing him as a “quiet” delivery driver.

The prosecution, led by Assistant District Attorneys Steven E. Gagne and Jennifer Suhl from the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, and the defense, led by attorney Michael Sheridan, have frequently been using challenges to throw out potential jurors. The lawyers may use peremptory challenges, for example, to dismiss a potential juror without needing to give a reason or making a legal argument for doing so.

Agostini expressed frustration with the frequency of peremptory challenges excusing potentially suitable jurors.

“I see people being challenged and I can’t figure out why, from both sides,” said Agostini, adding that he “can’t interfere” with the legal challenges.

However, the delaying in opening arguments and the evidentiary portion of the trial may begin to cause difficulties with scheduling.

A jury viewing of the Wendell home and former crime scene was supposed to take place Thursday, with jurors being taken to the scene to observe the property’s layout. Gagne, who said the viewing will help jurors put things in context, said Tuesday he will call the attorney of the current owner of the property to try to push back the viewing to Friday.

The 11 jurors selected so far are being told to come back Thursday morning, with hopes impanelment is done then. However, Agostini was less than optimistic.

“I’m not particularly confident we’ll be able to get a jury by Thursday,” he said.

In 2017, the night he allegedly killed Amanda Glover and shot at her autistic son, Devin Glover, Starkey then allegedly fled in Amanda Glover’s car to Chicopee, where he shot at a co-worker at his place of work, Specialized Trucking. The man was injured by flying broken glass, prosecutors say, and the shotgun was wrestled away from Starkey.

Devin Glover will be testifying at the trial as a witness for the prosecution, leading the attorneys to question potential jurors about their knowledge of autism. Potential jurors were told they could not allow any outside information to influence their decision-making if impaneled, even if they know someone with autism. The prosecution has described Devin Glover’s autism as moderate, and Gagne has stated it may be difficult to get information from him while on the stand.

Another item jurors are being questioned about is gun ownership. Starkey legally owned a shotgun — the same weapon prosecutors claim is the murder weapon — and potential jurors with negative feelings about gun owners have been excused.

The defense is not challenging the cause of Amanda Glover’s death, which the prosecution claims was a close-range shotgun blast.

The attorneys and Agostini initially estimated the trial — including jury selection — would last about two weeks. The trial could stretch longer now, due to the length of time it’s taking to impanel a jury, as well as the defense’s revelation Tuesday that it is sending out about 30 subpoenas for evidence and witnesses.

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.

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