CLEARWATER, Fla. — Jury selection continues Tuesday in John Jonchuck’s murder trial.
The court is having a challenging time finding people who can commit to the month-long trial and also don’t have previous knowledge of the case. There were 1,200 people summoned for this trial.
Judge Chris Helinger asked a group of 55 potential jurors Tuesday about their ability to commit to a month-long trial. Some of the potential jurors were dismissed for reasons like vacations, child care, and allergy shots.
Much like day one on Monday, individual questioning continued in a private conference room that involved the juror, judge, attorneys, and John Jonchuck.
The court is trying to determine which jurors can be fair and impartial, putting aside prior knowledge about the case.
Potential jurors gave responses like this:
“I remember like it was yesterday. I would try very hard. I have grandchildren so it’s very hard.”
“Mental health. I’m going to say it’s kind of a cop-out.”
“Mr. Jonchuck said the only way that the whole world or everybody would not go to hell would be if he and Phoebe died. I’m having trouble reconciling the concept that he may have been insane at one moment when he dropped her, threw her off the bridge 62 feet into the water below and then somehow not insane the next moment because he didn’t take his own life.”
“I have a young nephew and a young niece. If my brother-in-law or their stepfather ever did anything like that I would literally…..I wouldn’t be able to restrain myself.” That woman left the courtroom tears.
On Monday, the jurors who revealed they were familiar with the case were then taken into a private conference room for individual questioning to determine how much knowledge they have and whether they could be impartial.
Some jurors admitted they could not put aside their prior knowledge of the case, saying things like "I have grandchildren," or "it was too horrific."
Potential jurors were also questioned individually about their personal feelings on mental illness and "not guilty by reason of insanity" as a defense.
28 jurors have moved on to the second round of screening and the goal is to have 70 in the next round of the trial.
A St. Petersburg Police officer saw Jonchuck throw his 5-year-old daughter, Phoebe, off the Dick Misener Bridge in St. Petersburg just after midnight on Jan. 8, 2015. The bridge leads south to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
Phoebe Jonchuck's body was later recovered in Tampa Bay.
If John Jonchuck, 29, is found guilty of murder, he could spend life in prison.
The defense will not argue that Jonchuck didn't do it -- but rather that he is not guilty by reason of insanity. If he’s found not guilty by reason of insanity, Jonchuck will likely spend the rest of his life in a state mental hospital.
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