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BLOOMINGTON - One juror was accepted in the Maurice LaGrone Jr. murder trial Friday, bringing to five the total number selected to hear the murder case.

LaGrone, 30, and former girlfriend Amanda Hamm, 29, are each charged with nine counts of first-degree murder in the September 2003 drowning deaths of Hamm's three children. Christopher Hamm, 6, Austin Brown, 3, and Kyleigh Hamm, 23 months, were in the backseat of their mother's car when it sank in Clinton Lake.

LaGrone and Hamm each pleaded innocent to the charges, and the state is seeking the death penalty in both cases. Hamm's trial remains unscheduled.

The newest juror is a teacher's assistant in a special education program.

The panel so far is comprised of three women and two men.

The jury selection process opened Wednesday with an orientation of the case for 250 jury candidates.

Twenty-four potential jurors have been interviewed by Friday afternoon. On Friday, eight people were interviewed by DeWitt County Judge Stephen Peters and attorneys for the state and defense.n;

After four candidates are questioned, defense attorneys Jeff Justice and Tom Griffith confer with LaGrone about the potential jurors. Special prosecutors Roger Simpson and Ed Parkinson also discuss their choices for the panel.

On Friday, three employees from State Farm Insurance Cos. were excused by attorneys. The prosecution excused a video producer and the defense rejected an accountant and a systems analyst from the company.

No reason was given for the decision to excuse the potential jurors. Each side is allowed unlimited challenges to jurors for a specific cause and 14 challenges without a reason. The state and the defense have each used three unqualified challenges.

Others excused included a carpenter who failed to reveal his entire criminal history during questioning by the judge, three stay-at-home mothers and a self-employed worker.

Jury selection continues Monday. The judge and attorneys estimated that two weeks would be required to choose a jury.

The trial then will return to Clinton for a week of pretrial hearings without the jury. Evidence and testimony from as many as 100 witnesses will take three to four weeks in McLean County.

The trial was transferred to McLean County because of extensive media coverage in DeWitt County.


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