More than four years after teenager Sierra LaMar disappeared from a Morgan Hill bus stop, the trial against her accused abductor and killer has reached the jury selection process.
Court officials at the Hall of Justice in San Jose Monday polled 360 potential jurors. There was an audible gasp in the courtroom when they learned the death penalty trial may last six months.
The future trial involving suspect Antolin Garcia-Torres could drag out for some time. At one point in court Monday, Garcia-Torres turned to prospective jurors and said "Good morning everybody. Thanks for being here."
Many potential jurors were dismissed for hardship and the rest were given a 30-page questionnaire.
Potential jurors were also asked how they feel about capital punishment. If those citizens have any reservations about convicting someone to death, they will likely not be selected to be a jury member.
Legal analyst Steven Clark says a jury pool consisting of citizens not concerned with punishing Garcia-Torres to death would be more likely to convict the suspect to death.
Each side will have 20 challenges. Clark says prosecutors will likely look for jurors who will be able to work well together, while the defense will likely pursue independent thinkers and people who can have an open mind despite media coverage of the high-profile case.
However, a key ballot measure on the upcoming November election could impact Garcia-Torres' fate. If Proposition 62 is approved, which would repeal the death penalty in the California, all current death penalty cases will be grandfathered in. That decision would result in no more death row convictions.
LaMar disappeared on her way to school in 2012, but Garcia-Torres was arrested shortly after. Prosecutors say DNA evidence links the suspect to LaMar's vanishing.
Jury selection continues Tuesday with another 360 potential jurors.