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More Potential Jurors Will Be Called for Kopp Trial

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – Erie County prosecutors say they will probably need a larger pool of potential jurors than normal for the state murder trial of James Kopp.

County Court Judge Michael D'Amico indicated this week that he will probably ask the Commissioner of Jurors for a block of 400 to 500 potential jurors for the Kopp trial. County prosecutor Joseph Marusak says that's more than the normal amount requested for a murder trial.

Since Kopp has confessed to the fatal shooting of Dr. Barnett Slepian and the emotional issues surrounding the case, Marusak says it could be difficult to seat a jury.

"We anticipate because of the controversial nature of part of the case as it relates to abortions, that there may be potential jurors who will remove themselves," Marusak said. "You also may have jurors who say they've been exposed to too much pre-trial publicity and can not come to court with an impartial state of mind."

County Commissioner of Jurors Mehrl King says his department should be able to call up enough people for jury duty when the selection process begins.

"Instead of summoning 1,800 or 2,000 for a week term of service for all of the courtrooms that we take care of, we may have to summon more in the 2,500 to 2,600 range," King said.

People initially selected for the Kopp trial will be required to fill out a written questionnaire from Judge D'Amico. He will create the questions with input from both the defense and prosecution. Marusak say jury selection, which might begin by mid-March, could be "lengthy." Commissioner King says they draw from several sources to summon potential jurors and would be able to provide more if needed by the judge.