TULSA, Okla. — Thursday marked day four of a lengthy jury selection for the David Ware trial.
Ware is accused of killing one Tulsa police officer and injuring another in a shooting during a June 2020 traffic stop. He's charged with First-Degree Murder and Shooting With Intent to Kill, and Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler is seeking the death penalty in this case.
A death penalty case can take weeks for both jury selection and the actual trial.
After four days of jury selection about half of the pool of jurors is set. The jury selection is expected to continue into next week. Attorney Tim Gilpin said during this lengthy process attorneys try to get to know the jurors to determine their mindset.
“That’s why the process for jury selection in any case, but certainly a death penalty criminal case, takes a long time because they’re asking the jurors about their personal beliefs, their biases, their backgrounds," Gilpin said.
Finding someone to sit on a jury for a death penalty case isn’t easy. So far in the David Ware trial, 35 out of a pool of 100 jurors have been dismissed. Those remaining face some big questions.
“Would they be willing, with the right evidence, to impose a death penalty or a life imprisonment penalty?" Gilpin said. "Some folks just won’t do that, they’re just not built that way. Other folks have an open mind to it. And on the other end of the spectrum, there are folks who would be more than glad to do it under the circumstances.”
Once the trial is underway, the first phase begins to find whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. Gilpin said the jury will be looking for aggravation, malice and intent.
“In this case what you’re going to see is a lot of information about the actual act and why it happened," he said. "The intent or lack of intent.”
Gilpin said that first phase could take several days to a week. If found guilty, then comes the second phase - the penalty phase. Even if it is a death penalty case, jurors could decide on a lesser sentence of life in prison either with or without the possibility of parole.
Gilpin said actually getting a death sentence doesn’t happen often. And it leads back to intent.
“It’s relatively rare that it get to that phase," Gilpin said. “Whether a jury can oppose death penalty, whether you can convince a jury to do capital punishment, has a lot to do with the aggravating circumstances and if they think the defendant’s intentions were malicious or what.”
Gilpin said another thing jurors may consider in this case is Oklahoma’s history of problems occurring during executions.
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