ROCKWALL — Three-thousand people — or roughly 4 percent of Rockwall County’s residents — were summoned to the courthouse Friday morning as the long process of picking a jury begins in the Kaufman County prosecutor slayings.
The capital murder case of Eric Williams, a former justice of the peace, was moved to Rockwall County because of the extraordinary amount of publicity the case has received. Williams is accused of killing the district attorney, his wife and a top assistant last year
Dallas County District Judge Mike Snipes, who is presiding over the case, is using what’s known as a “big panel” procedure. This involves summoning a larger than normal pool of people to fill out jury questionnaires.
More than 50 percent summoned showed up to the courthouse, officials said.
Potential jurors filled out 28-page questionnaires that included detailed questions about their views on the death penalty, the criminal justice system and law enforcement. It also asked potential jurors whether they knew anybody connected to the case, including prosecutors, defense attorneys, or the victims.
From that large pool of people, prosecutors and defense attorneys will winnow it down to a much smaller group of people. Formal jury selection is scheduled to begin in May. It’s expected to be completed in August.
Snipes has scheduled the trial to begin in October, although Williams’ defense attorneys have sought to delay court proceedings citing the enormous amount of work to be done.
Williams is being held in the Kaufman County jail in lieu of $23 million bail.
His wife, Kim, has also been charged with capital murder. She is being in the Kaufman County jail. Prosecutors have not said whether they will seek the death penalty against her.
The killings garnered national attention, beginning with the Jan. 31, 2013, slaying of assistant Kaufman County prosecutor Mark Hasse, 57. He was gunned down as he walked to the downtown Kaufman courthouse.
District Attorney Mike McLelland, 63, and his wife, Cynthia, 65, were slain Forney home over the Easter weekend.
A grand jury indicted Mr. and Mrs. Williams in June.
Authorities believe the couple began plotting the murders after McLelland and Hasse prosecuted Eric Williams in a theft and burglary case that resulted in his removal as a justice of the peace in 2012. Eric Williams also was stripped of his law license. A judge sentenced him to probation in that case.