SPOKANE -- All 63 people remaining in the jury pool for Vicente Ruiz's murder trial are to return to court today, with attorneys hoping to have a panel seated by midday.
Prosecutors and defense lawyers in the 23-year-old case on Monday wrapped up questioning of prospective jurors whose responses in jury questionnaires had raised concerns.
Of the 51 people excused since last Tuesday, a majority were for vacation plans, work conflicts or strong opinions about the justice system and criminals.
Several people who are unemployed said they would hate to finally get a callback for a job, then have to turn it down because they're seated on a six-week trial.
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However, one man who is looking for work in construction or mechanics said if a job opportunity came along, it wouldn't be a problem.
"I'd just tell them I'm serving my country right at the moment," he said.
He will join the group of 63 today for further questioning by attorneys, who will pick a jury of 12 with three alternates.
Ruiz, 46, is charged in Franklin County Superior Court with five counts of aggravated first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder. He is the second suspect in the 1987 slayings at a Pasco auto body shop.
Ruiz's first two trials ended in mistrials. Judge Cameron Mitchell then moved the third trial to Spokane County because of extensive media coverage.
A juror on Monday was living in Finley in 1987 and recalled seeing something about the mass murders on the evening news. She said it was "memorable because it just didn't happen that often."
She didn't remember any other details and told the court she has not followed the case since then.
A man who was dismissed had written in his questionnaire that he's "prejudiced against the criminal element."
"I can't say that applies to the defendant because I am not convinced he's a criminal," the man said. "But in general, if a person is convicted, I prefer to hang 'em on a violent crime like murder or child rape."
He added that his brother and nephew were robbed at the Vancouver world fair in 1986, and that he's trying to overcome a prejudice against Hispanics since his daughter was physically and mentally abused by her Hispanic husband. He said he knows that isn't fair, but said he might bring those feelings into this case.
After selecting the jury today, the court expects to discuss any motions by the attorneys and then recess. Opening statements are set for Wednesday.