Jury selection begins for alleged Cleveland serial killer trial

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 03, 2011 6:53 PM
Jury selection begins for alleged Cleveland serial killer trial

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Jury selection began on Friday in the trial of a Cleveland man accused of killing 11 women.

If convicted, Anthony Sowell, 51, could be sentenced to death.

A pool of more than 300 prospective jurors requested for the trial reported to an Ohio courthouse Friday. Of this pool, 200 potential candidates were given jury questionnaires to fill out and will return Monday for the first day of orientation, according to Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Administrator Gregory Popovich.

Sowell's history includes serving as a Marine during the 1970s and 1980s followed by a 15-year prison sentence for raping a pregnant woman.

Sowell was arrested on October 29, 2009, two days after the initial discovery of the bodies in and around his home. The decomposing bodies were found by police who were responding to a report by a woman who said she had been attacked in the home.

After the first news reports of the findings, groups of family members with missing relatives gathered with pictures and watched as coroner vehicles left the scene.

Since the positive identification of all the bodies, the families of five of Sowell's alleged victims have filed a wrongful death suit against the city.

Judge Dick Ambrose had prospective jurors report before the trial was officially to begin for "security reasons," Popovich said.

Ambrose is the last of three judges assigned to the Sowell case. The first judge recused himself after discussing the case with the media and the second was removed after being accused of inappropriate Internet postings.

While in custody, Sowell has been indicted on attempted murder, rape, kidnapping and assault charges stemming from attacks on women who have survived.

Sowell's alleged victims were often homeless and addicted to drugs. Some of the women had not been reported as missing.

(Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Jerry Norton)