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Jury selected in Cairo murder case
CAIRO, Ill. -- A jury will hear opening arguments this morning in the case against a Cairo man accused of killing his wife last fall.
Chauncey Hughes, 30, faces first-degree murder charges in connection with the Nov. 1 shooting death of his wife, Heather Davis, 22.
About 80 Alexander County, Illinois, residents gathered in court Tuesday to answer questions from State's Attorney Jeff Farris; public defender Zach Gowin; and Circuit Judge Mark Clarke.
By the end of the day, Clarke had dismissed all but seven men and seven women -- 12 jurors and two alternates.
In Alexander County -- which, according to U.S. Census data, has a population of 7,629 -- many of the prospective jurors already were familiar with the case or the parties involved.
Several people knew Davis through her work as owner and manager of Mack's Restaurant in Cairo.
One man was excused from the jury pool because he and Hughes were cousins; another was excused because he was a longtime friend of the Davis family.
Some prospective jurors were excused after acknowledging they would have trouble maintaining their objectivity after hearing news reports or local gossip about the case.
One man seemed to imply Hughes should be lynched, telling Clarke he was familiar with the case and had "a rope" in his truck.
Clarke called the man's comment "ridiculous" and "inappropriate."
"I'd thank you for your service, but I'm having trouble getting past that comment," the judge said as he sent the man out of the courtroom. Clarke told the rest of the prospective jurors anyone who shared the man's opinion would be excused immediately.
"Thank you," a woman said from the gallery.
Alexander County Circuit Clerk Paul Jones said he sent letters to 250 prospective jurors. Of those, 106 were excused or had invalid addresses, leaving a pool of 144.
Jones said it would be up to Clarke to determine how to deal with those who were not excused and did not report for jury duty Tuesday.
- Judge denies motion to suppress statements in Cairo homicide (06/12/14)
- Cairo homicide case continued to June 4 (05/28/14)
- Murder suspect's lawyer seeks to suppress confession (04/02/14)
- Hughes pleads not guilty to wife's murder (01/08/14)
- Murder suspect changed story about wife's death, officer says (12/11/13)