Seventy-seven potential jurors for the David Attias murder trial were introduced to the case Monday morning in Judge Thomas Adams’ Santa Barbara Superior courtroom.
Jury selection, which began last week, is expected to run through Friday, with the trial slated to begin on Monday, April 22. The trial will begin sooner if jury selection is completed before Friday.
Adams said Monday that he expects the court to choose 12 jurors and six alternates to hear the case.
Attias, a former UCSB student, stands accused of four counts of murder and four counts of vehicular manslaughter, among other criminal charges, for the Feb. 23, 2001 incident which left four people dead and a fifth, Albert Levy, seriously injured. Attias allegedly ran his car into the victims on Sabado Tarde Road last February at speeds as high as 60 mph.
The families of the deceased victims – Christopher Divis and Nicholas Bourdakis, both UCSB students; Ruth Levy, a Santa Barbara City College student; and Elie Israel, a visitor from the Bay Area – have filed wrongful death suits against Attias and his parents. Albert Levy has also filed a wrongful injury suit against the defendant and his family.
Attias has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
In court Monday, Adams introduced Attias and the prosecution and defense teams to potential jurors, and explained the case, which is expected to last about 12 weeks. Most of the 77 potentials are middle-aged Santa Barbara residents.
“Probably most important in this particular case … we need jurors that are fair-minded and evenhanded in [relation to] this particular case. Everyone comes in with preconceived notions … but if your life experience will play into the way you will decide this case, you have to let us know,” Adams said. “You can’t have any hidden agendas. … No hidden agendas. No secrets.”
In the last two weeks, district attorney Patrick McKinley and defense lawyers Jack Earley and Nancy Haydt have met several times in Adam’s courtroom to haggle over last minute motions pertaining to evidence submission and witness testimony.
On April 5, defense council decided they would like the court to show the jury the entire videotape taken by IVTV the night of the accident, which captures, among other things, the aftermath on Sabado Tarde Road.
Earley said the defense wants the jury to see the entire video, with sound, in order to give jurors “a flavor for what’s going on.”
“Not too many jurors go out to I.V. on the weekends,” Haydt said. “It’s good to have a picture of what it was like on the night of the accident.”
During the phase of the trial when the prosecution will attempt to establish the defendant’s guilt, the defense said they intend to focus on Attias’ mental state at the time of the alleged crime, and how this state affects his guilt.
“Some big issues: What effect does mental illness have on driving? What crime does that make someone guilty of? If someone is hurt in an accident, and the person who committed the crime is mentally ill, assuming that they did actually commit a crime, what crime have they committed? ” Earley said.