Attorneys in the murder conspiracy trial of Todd D. Stuart questioned a group of prospective jurors Monday, focusing on any media exposure to the case or domestic violence history.
Ninety three Franklin County residents responded to Superior Court for the first day of jury selection.
The court anticipates seating a 15-member panel with three alternates since the trial is expected to last through the end of the month.
Stuart, 49, is charged with attempted first-degree murder and first-degree conspiracy to commit murder.
His lawyer, Jeffery Robinson of Seattle, has said Stuart denies any involvement in the March 2011 death of his mother-in-law, Judy Hebert.
However, prosecutors allege Stuart made one attempt at killing Hebert in the weeks before her death and, when that didn't work, devised another plan with his wife so the couple could get their hands on the victim's inheritance.
Tashia Stuart also is charged with first-degree murder with aggravating circumstances. Her trial is scheduled for October.
Hebert, 58, died after being shot inside her Salmon Drive home. Tashia Stuart says she acted in self-defense, only firing the gun at Hebert after her mother came at her with an ax.
The Stuarts and Tashia's 7-year-old daughter had moved in with Hebert just two months before.
Hebert suffered a head injury in February 2011 when a bin full of books fell from the rafters in her garage, according to court documents. She reportedly believed her daughter and son-in-law were trying to kill her, though any statements she made to friends and neighbors about her suspicions can't be introduced to the jury.
Todd Stuart left town for California, then contacted Pasco police after reading on the Herald website about Hebert's death and his estranged wife's arrest.
He was arrested in January and returned to Washington to face charges in the incident.
On Monday, several potential jurors were excused from the pool because they said they believe Robinson will have to prove the allegations are wrong and his client is innocent. One woman was let go after informing Judge Cameron Mitchell that she cannot sit in judgment of another person.
Jury selection for Stuart's trial is expected to last into Wednesday, with the court on recess from Thursday through Monday. Opening statements and testimony will begin Sept. 18.
-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; firstname.lastname@example.org