Beginning today, the 16 residents selected Monday as jurors in Reinaldo Rivera's trial will learn the horrifying details of a series of fatal rapes in the Augusta area.
And until they make a decision on Mr. Rivera's fate, they can't say a word about it.
Mr. Rivera, 40, has pleaded innocent in Richmond County Superior Court to 14 charges of rape, aggravated sodomy, aggravated assault, burglary and murder. If he is convicted of murder in the September 2000 death of Army Sgt. Marni Glista, prosecutors will seek a death sentence.
Prosecutors plan to call 70 to 80 witnesses to testify, and defense attorneys Peter Johnson and Jacque Hawk also intend to present witnesses.
"It's going to be a long trial," Judge Albert M. Pickett told the 12 jurors and four alternate jurors selected Monday morning.
The good news, Judge Pickett told them, is that they won't be sequestered and will be able to return home after trial each day. But that means the jurors must be vigilant not to listen to or read any news report about the trial or allow anyone to talk to them about the case, the judge said.
The jurors represent a cross-section of the community. They range from retirees to three years under the legal drinking age. Some are newparents, while others have grown children. Some are professionals and hold college degrees, while a couple have no work experience.
Only three jurors are men. Some have relatives in law enforcement. Several have had contact with or education about mental illness and child sexual abuse, two themes that interested defense attorneys last week, when nearly 100 potential jurors were questioned individually.
Several of the jurors expressed some reservations about the death penalty, but all said they would vote for a death sentence under the right circumstance. They also said they could consider life in prison with or without parole, even if they become convinced that Mr. Rivera killed not only 21-year-old Sgt. Glista in Augusta, but also three other women.
All but two of the jurors said last week that they had heard or read news accounts about Mr. Rivera's case, but all said they could put that aside and decide the case only on the evidence presented in court.
As one of the jurors said, "I don't judge from what I read in the newspaper. It takes a lot more than that."
Mr. Rivera was arrested in October 2000 after a nearly fatal attack on an Augusta teenager. He confessed to that and to sexually assaulting and killing four women: Sgt. Glista; Tabitha L. Bosdell, 17; Tiffaney S. Wilson, 17; and Melissa Dingess, 17.
Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.