2 jurors chosen on first day of jury selection for Michelle Troconis’ upcoming trial
Day one of jury selection for Michelle Troconis’ upcoming trial wrapped up Wednesday at Stamford Superior Court with two jurors being chosen, one man and one woman.
A total of 12 people will be selected—six jurors and six alternates—to hear the case against Troconis, who’s charged in connection with the disappearance and presumed death of Jennifer Dulos. Troconis’ attorney said he didn’t expect to seat two people on the first day of a process he previously said may take at least a month.
The day began with a pool of 30 people -13 of whom were quickly excused because of their inability to sit on a lengthy trial due to their job, child care issues, planned vacations and scheduled surgery. It’s set to begin Jan. 8 with Judge Kevin Randolph estimating it’ll take six weeks. Randolph told prospective jurors that with holidays, evidence will likely be presented through March 1. He also said the trial will be livestreamed online. Five more people were excused from serving after being questioned by the judge and both sides.
MORE: Judge denies venue change in Jennifer Dulos case, sets jury selection for Oct. 4 MORE: Arguments wrap on police search of Farmington home in Jennifer Dulos investigation MORE: Trial in Jennifer Dulos case to begin in January; jury selection starts next week MORE: Michelle Troconis’ mother testifies at hearing about police search in Jennifer Dulos case
“I'll just say this is going to be a slow process. It seems that a lot of people have opinions and that's all I can say,” Schoenhorn said during the lunch recess.
Before the start of jury selection, Schoenhorn requested a jury of 12 rather than six. In Connecticut, only Class A felonies call for 12 jurors. Troconis is charged with Class B, C and D felonies. The judge denied the motion. Schoenhorn later clarified his motion to News 12, explaining it’s based on a potential ruling by the United States Supreme Court that six person juries are unconstitutional.
“That hasn't happened yet, but if I don't make the motion, it's waived,” Schoenhorn explained. “Some of the arguments I might make are based on the fact that if the U.S. Supreme Court decides that it's unconstitutional, no matter what happens, it would require a reversal if anything bad were to happen. Some of my motions are based on constitutional arguments that are not necessarily going to be successful, but I’m not going to waive any issue in this case.”
Movement in the case comes almost 4 1/2 years after Jennifer Dulos, the estranged wife of Troconis’ boyfriend at the time, vanished. Police believe Fotis Dulos killed Jennifer Dulos in her home in New Canaan on May 24, 2019, then disposed of her body. The two were in the midst of a contentious divorce and custody battle over their five kids. Jennifer Dulos has never been found but is presumed dead. Troconis was charged with conspiracy to commit murder, evidence tampering, conspiracy to commit evidence tampering and hindering prosecution - all of which she’d pleaded not guilty to. She's one of two remaining defendants in the case after Fotis Dulos died by suicide in January 2020 while facing charges including murder and kidnapping. His friend and former attorney, Kent Mawhinney, has also pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit murder, but Troconis will be the first to stand trial.
“We're going to go through the process like I do in any other case and try to find objective people to sit as jurors,” Schoenhorn stated.
At least one potential juror said that wasn't possible for him. During his questioning, he said due to media coverage of the case, he's already formed an opinion on whether Troconis is innocent or guilty and wouldn't be able to just consider what's presented at trial. That person was excused. The judge also excused another potential juror after learning he was working at a house on Jennifer Dulos' street when police shut down the road to begin their investigation into her whereabouts. Only two of the seven people questioned about the case said they’d never heard of it.
“I'm actually surprised they found one, right?” Schoenhorn joked with the media. Neither of them was chosen to sit on the jury for different reasons.
Each side has 12 challenges to prospective jurors, with the defense using one of theirs Wednesday. Unlike a typical case, the trial will not immediately follow jury selection. That's because of several outstanding motions regarding what evidence the jury will see. The gap in time is why there will be so many alternates in this case.
Schoenhorn has attacked the methods used by police in their investigation, filing several motions for suppression. The judge denied most of one motion earlier this week, ruling most of what police found at the home Troconis shared with Fotis Dulos can be presented at the upcoming trial. Randolph also denied a prior motion for suppression over the claims the search warrant for the house was overly broad and lacked probable cause.
Other motions concern cellphone tower data, the seizure of Troconis’ cellphone and DNA evidence. Schoenhorn said in court Wednesday before the start of jury selection that another DNA sample was taken from his client just a couple weeks ago.