Jury selection finalized in St. Croix murder trial

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ST. CROIX - After two-and-a-half days of going through the selection process, a jury was empaneled Thursday to hear the case against the five people accused of torturing and killing V.I. Police Cpl. Wendell "Lazee" Williams more than 12 years ago.

The trial of Maximiliano Velasquez III; Juan Velasquez; Jose Ventura; Jose Rivera Jr.; and Sharima Clercent, who all are facing first-degree murder charges, is scheduled to begin Monday before V.I. Superior Court Senior Sitting Judge Darryl Donohue Sr.

Also on Thursday, Donohue denied a motion filed by the defense attorneys seeking to mute their demand for a jury trial and in the alternative seek a bench trial in the case.

Defense attorneys had argued that because of excessive publicity in the case, the jury pool has been tainted, denying their clients a fair trial.

However, Assistant Attorney General Kippy Roberson said he would not agree to a bench trial, forcing Donohue to deny the motion.

Jury selection began Tuesday morning, with more than 150 potential jurors brought in.

Selection continued on Wednesday morning and wrapped up just before 2 p.m. Thursday.

All five defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them, and with the exception of Clercent, they remain in custody of the V.I. Corrections Bureau unable to post bail.

Attorney Daniel Cevallos is representing Ventura; public defender H. Hannibal O'Bryan is representing Maximiliano Velasquez; attorney Vincent Colianni Jr. is representing Juan Velasquez; attorney Jomo Meade is representing Clercent; and attorney Gordon Rhea is representing Rivera.

Attorneys said they expect the trial to last two to three weeks.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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