Jury Selection Begins for Murder Trial of Christopher Matlosz [AUDIO]
Jury selection in the trial of the murder of Lakewood Police Officer Christopher Matlosz begins Tuesday January 17th, however finding twelve impartial jurors could prove difficult.
Twenty year old Jahmell Crockam was arrested last year and charged with the execution style shooting of the Lakewood patrolman that occurred on January 14th 2011.
Attorney and defense expert Mitchell Ignatoff says that it will be up to the judge to find an impartial panel, and that could be a difficult process.
“They have to go through jury selection first and see if they can find a panel of jurors who are either have heard about the event and haven’t formed any opinion and are willing to be fair and impartial or jurors who haven’t heard of the event at all.”
Ignatoff believes it could be at least a week before the judge is able to select an appropriate jury, however he said it could take as much as two to three weeks before an appropriate panel is selected. If after that time the judge still can’t find jurors, then he could send the trial to another county.
He says that while that is a rare occurrence, it’s still a possibility.
“There have been several cases recently where they’ve had to change the venue because of the degree of publicity. The judge felt there’s no way you could get a fair jury in the county.”
Matlosz’s death however became news almost instantly throughout Ocean County, where the death of a police officer is almost unthinkable. Hundreds have attended memorials and vigils for the 27 year old patrolman, and news of Crockam’s arrest made headlines throughout the state. Those are all things that can make it difficult for a defense believes Ignatoff.
“You have to ask questions of the jurors of whether they heard of this case, how they heard about it, whether they formed any opinions about it, and whether they are able to disregard what they have heard or read and just rely on the evidence. And hope they give an honest answer ”
If the judge does decide the trial needs to be moved, a question of where comes up. Though news can be accessed wirelessly anywhere instantly, according to Ignatoff the logistics of all of the parties involved means it won’t be moved too far from where the crime occurred.
“You have to consider the convenience of the witnesses, and the defendant, and the ability of the sheriff’s office to travel back and forth. So generally you’re talking about two counties over at max.”
Officer Matlosz was shot three times at close range during his patrol in Lakewood. A little over a day later Crockam was arrested by a SWAT team while in Camden. He is being charged faces murder and weapons charges, among others.
Opening statements are not expected to begin until late January or early February.