High profile murder case starts in Tucson
TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The most high profile court case in years gets underway in Superior Court tomorrow, Sept. 8.
Christopher Clements faces 22 counts, including two murder counts, in the killing of two young girls a decade ago.
He’s charged with killing 6 year old Isabel Celis in 2012 and 13 year old Maribel Gonzales in 2014. The remains of both girls were found in the desert Northwest of Tucson.
“Court filings from last week show that Clements and his attorneys were trying to get the trial moved out of Tucson because of pre-trial publicity, which included an eight part podcast produced by KOLD-TV, News 13 entitled “Disappeared in the Desert”.
The podcast revealed never before reported evidence about the murders, the capture and charges against Clements. It also showed his jailhouse conversations with police.
The attorneys also sent out a questionnaire to 350 potential jurors, some of whom were disqualified for looking up the case, watching the podcast or violating rules. Some of them Googled the case and then lied about it when asked. They were called untrustworthy.
It can be difficult to find jurors in high profile, high publicity cases.
“You really worry about people who say they haven’t seen anything because what are they doing with that time in their lives,” said Tucson defense attorney Joe St. Louis. “And you worry about people who have read everything about it because it’s really hard when you form an opinion to set it aside.”
Clements will face two trials. The first which starts tomorrow is for the death of Gonzalez.
The second trial is scheduled to begin in February in the death of Celis, a very high profile killing in Tucson in 2012.
News 13 asked for the questionnaires but they have been sealed. It’s rare but in these cases maybe not all that surprising.
“There might be some questions about whether the jurors have been abused, maybe even sexually abused as a child,” St. Louis said. “They may be asking for some very personal information and they want the jurors to be candid and in exchange for that, they sealed it.”
Jury selection gets underway tomorrow and is expected to last two days. The trial is expected to last three weeks.
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