Jury selection set in federal cyberstalking trial

AP News
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Posted: Jun 10, 2015 7:46 PM

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — The federal judge presiding over a cyberstalking trial for relatives of a man who killed his former daughter-in-law at a Delaware courthouse will decide whether a purported "hit list" found in the shooter's car will be allowed into evidence.

Prosecutors say the document was found inside a notebook recovered from Thomas Matusiewicz's car after he fatally shot Christine Belford and a friend as they arrived at the New Castle County courthouse for a child support hearing in February 2013.

After shooting Belford, Matusiewicz exchanged gunfire with police before killing himself.

Prosecutors say Thomas Matusiewicz's son, David, conspired with his parents and sister over several years to torment and stalk his ex-wife with the intent to injure, harass, intimidate and kill her. They say the defendants repeatedly accused Belford in emails and Internet postings of abusing and neglecting the three daughters she had with David Matusiewicz.

David Matusiewicz; his mother, Lenore Matusiewicz; and his sister, Amy Gonzalez, are charged with cyberstalking resulting in Bedford's death, and could face life in prison if convicted. All have denied having any knowledge that Thomas Matusiewicz intended to kill Bedford.

Jury selection and opening statements in the case were scheduled for Thursday, after a jury pool of several hundred people was winnowed down this week to 64 qualified potential jurors.

On Wednesday, prosecutor Jamie McCall described the notebook found in Thomas Matusiewicz's car as "the stalking playbook."

Judge Gerald McHugh Jr. said that he is likely to allow the notebook itself into evidence if prosecutors can establish the proper legal foundation for its use in bolstering their case.

But McHugh said he needs more time to reflect on a document bearing the letters "H/L" that was found inside the notebook. Prosecutors say the document, which contains 16 names, is a list of people targeted by the Matusiewicz family. It begins with Belford's name and includes the name of an attorney who represented her in Family Court proceedings, as well as the name of U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Sleet.

Sleet presided over a case in which David Matusiewicz pleaded guilty in 2009 to federal fraud and kidnapping charges. Matusiewicz was arrested after he and his mother took his daughters to Central America. Lenore Matusiewicz served more than a year in Delaware state prison for child endangerment for her role in the kidnapping. The Matusiewicz family has said they were trying to protect one of the daughters from being sexually abused by Belford, an assertion that Sleet said was not credible.

Sleet recused himself from the current cyberstalking case, as did all of Delaware's federal judges. McHugh was brought in from Philadelphia to preside over the trial.

Defense attorneys have expressed concern about allowing prosecutors to refer to the "H/L" document as a hit list, saying prosecutors have presented no evidence of who wrote the list, when it was composed, or its true purpose.

"I think it's really speculation upon speculation," said David Matusiewicz's public defender, Edson Bostic, adding that his client's fingerprints are not on the document.

But McCall argued that prosecutors should be allowed to tell the jury in closing arguments that a person could reasonably infer that the document is, indeed, a hit list.

"This list goes to knowledge, intent ... plan and motive," he said.