Local News

Jury selection begins again in child death case

SEBRING - Jury selection began again Monday in the case of a man who authorities say left his daughter in a car overnight, forgetting she was there. The 2-year-old died later. Two weeks ago, jury selection was halted after many potential jurors said they were familiar with the case and could not put aside their opinions. But the process appeared to move forward more smoothly Monday morning with fewer potential jurors being familiar with the case. As of around 2 p.m., attorneys were still questioning a panel of potential jurors in the trial of Christopher King, who is charged with aggravated manslaughter and child neglect, resulting in great harm in the Sept. 7, 2012 death of Amelia King.
Prosecutors have to pick a six-member jury and two alternates and begin trial no later than Oct. 31 or face having the charges against King dismissed because of speedy trial rules. They have indicated they plan to introduce evidence that King used drugs the night he allegedly left his daughter in the car. Although Circuit Judge William Sites said he expected a jury would be selected Monday, the process slowed down when several jurors were questioned individually because they indicated they were familiar with the case. One woman, who insisted she could be unbiased, told attorneys and Sites that her husband told her Monday that a friend, who was a former Florida Department of Children and Family Services employee, told him she would likely be considered as a juror for a case involving "some crackhead who left a child in a car and (the child) died." The woman voiced concerns she would get the man in trouble for telling her husband that, but Sites said the man did not violate any laws. One potential jury who ended up being dismissed said he has known King for a long time and wouldn't feel comfortable sitting on the trial as a juror. Another woman was dismissed after she told attorneys that "I don't see how you can forget your child in the car." Asked if she could put that aside, as well as anything else she had got from reading about the case in the media, she responded, "I honestly don't know if I could or not." Another potential juror also was dismissed after saying she formed an opinion after reading about the child's death in a newspaper. The initial panel of potential jurors who was questioned included two teachers, a pharmacy technician and a contractor. Assistant State Attorney Richard Castillo asked the potential jurors whether they had children or grandchildren and their ages. Most had children and grandchildren and some had great-grandchildren. He also asked some of them what they did after leaving the Highlands County Courthouse for lunch. Some said they got into their vehicle, put their seat belts on and turned the ignition. Castillo also made a point of asking whether the potential jurors could accept that he doesn't have to prove King intended to leave his child in the car. King initially contended his son locked his daughter in the car. But the son told authorities that King forgot the daughter was in the car. jmeisel@highlandstoday.com (863) 386-5834