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Attorneys narrow jury pool from 800

Jessica Cuffman • Oct 11, 2013 at 9:51 AM

They started out with 800 prospective jurors, but have since whittled the number down to about 80.

After four days of individual questioning, 41 jurors were chosen to return to Erie County Common Pleas Court Judge Tygh Tone’s courtroom on Oct. 28.

Watch live coverage of the trial when it begins at sanduskyregister.com

Tone, prosecutors and defense attorneys will continue questioning the remaining jurors into next week.    In July, 800 people filled out extensive questionnaires about their previous knowledge of the case and their perspectives on the death penalty.

On Monday, attorneys began using the information from those forms to identify the best possible jurors, to insure the trial’s integrity.

Clinton, 42, appeared in court unshackled Thursday, wearing a white button-down shirt and a pink tie. His attorneys, David Doughten and Robert Dixon, were with him.

Erie County prosecutor Kevin Baxter, assistant prosecutor Mary Ann Barylski and Ohio Attorney General’s Office attorney Paul Scarsella are prosecuting the case.

Clinton is accused of strangling to death Heather Jackson, 23, and her two children, Celina, 3, and Wayne IV, 20 months, in a John Street home Sept. 8, 2012. Police arrested him two days after the bodies were discovered.

Clinton was charged with multiple counts of aggravated murder. He faces the death penalty if convicted, given that he allegedly committed the crime in the course of committing other felonies and he allegedly killed children younger than age 13.

He’s also accused of sexually assaulting Celina the day she died and, in an unrelated case, he’s accused of raping a 17-year-old Clyde girl the week before the homicides.

From the narrowed jury pool of 80, the court will move forward with the criminal trial just as in other trials, choosing 12 jurors and an alternate for the weeklong case against Clinton.

If he’s found guilty of at least one aggravated murder charge, the case will move into a second phase to consider the death penalty. In this phase, the same set of jurors will hear evidence presented by Clinton’s attorneys about his background and other circumstances, all intended to sway jurors to reject the death penalty.

Prosecutors will then argue Clinton should be sentenced to death.

Clinton served 13 years in prison for the 1997 killing of Misty Keckler, an 18-year-old Fostoria woman. Keckler’s body was found naked and facedown in a half-filled bathtub, her hands and feet bound behind her back. She was strangled to death.

Clinton was released from prison just seven months prior to the deaths of Jackson and her children.

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