500 People Called For Jury Duty In Walters Murder TrialPosted: Updated:
The upcoming trial of accused killer Justin Walters is considered so high-profile that as many as 500 people have been called for jury duty, which is possibly a record number for Jefferson County.
Jury selection begins Monday for one of the most anticipated trials the county has ever seen. Walters is accused of shooting and killing his wife, Nichole, and state Trooper Joel Davis in July 2017 near Theresa.
New York State Unified Court System spokesperson Lucian Chalfen told 7 News the number of potential jurors is four times the usual amount of people called for a murder trial.
He said it's necessary to summon that many potential jurors because of pre-trial publicity, no change of venue and the county's relatively small population. When asked about the small population, Chalfen said there could be a lot of people who have a personal connection to the case.
Chalfen said the high number of potential jurors is a possible record for Jefferson County and that it's comparable to the number of jury summons sent out in New York County for the high-profile rape trial of film producer Harvey Weinstein.
Chalfen also said there will be additional court officers present in the courtroom and building due to the publicity surrounding the case.
Walters was indicted in 2017 on 55 counts in the deaths of 27 year old Nichole Walters and 36 year old Trooper Joel Davis. The charges include murder, attempted murder, assault, and criminal possession of a weapon.
Walters' lawyer Ed Narrow said Wednesday he plans to pursue the defense that his client has a "mental disease or defect" and will call Albany psychiatrist Dr. Stephen Price as an expert witness. Narrow said Dr. Price was one of the first psychiatrists to recognize the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
Walters was a decorated active-duty Fort Drum soldier at the time of the shooting. He had served in the military for 10 years. Narrow said Walters served two tours in Afghanistan and as a result suffered mental health issues.
Narrow said he's unsure if Walters will take the stand to testify in his own defense.
Narrow had requested that Walters be tried in a bench trial, meaning a judge would decide if Walters is guilty or not guilty of murder. Narrow said Wednesday the case is definitely going before a jury.
Last month, Narrow also asked the court to restrict the showing of autopsy photos during the trial, describing the pictures as prejudicial and inflammatory. Narrow said Wednesday a decision on those photos has not been finalized.