TUPELO – Circuit court officials from Lafayette and Lee counties will resume their effort this morning to impanel a Lee County to hear the Lafayette County trial of Caleb Carrothers. He is charged with two counts of capital murder in the fatal shootings of Frank and Taylor Clark in July 2009 in their rural Lafayette County home and aggravated assaulted in the wounding of Tonya Clark, their wife and mother, respectively.
Third Judicial District Judge Andy Howorth of Oxford led a session Monday at the Lee County Justice Center to distill the pool of 600 summoned voters down to fewer than 150, of whom 15 will be chosen. Some others in the same pool may be chosen to serve on a Lee County case.
“This is a slow but important part of the trial,” Howorth apologetically told potential jurors, who were queried in shifts to accommodate their numbers. “What we’re asking you to do is to participate in an important and valued right – an American’s right to trial by jury. I ask you to make that sacrifice.”
One of the central issues in the case is, if Carrothers were to be found guilty, whether to sentence him to death. Defense counsel includes representatives of the Mississippi Office of Capital Defense, and Howorth required potential jurors to disclose any views either for or against the death penalty that could cloud their judgment on the case, and several who responded were excused from service.
The alleged crime would fall within legal guidelines for the death penalty if jurors find that the homicides were committed in connection with robbery.
Carrothers’ trial is expected to begin today as soon as jury selection can be finalized and the jurors bused to Oxford. More than a dozen people, including Tonya Clark and her surviving son Josh, law enforcement officers, forensics experts and others, have been identified as potential witnesses. Combined with a complex narrative of events and evidence, that roster may push the trial into the weekend.
“If we don’t end on Friday, we’ll work on Saturday,” Howorth said.
Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or email@example.com.
Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal Oxford Bureau