BLOOMINGTON - Potential jurors were given their first introduction Tuesday to Maurice LaGrone Jr. and the murder case that stems from the September 2003 drowning deaths of three children in Clinton Lake.
About 250 McLean County residents started going through the jury selection process for the trial at the McLean County Law and Justice Center. The pool included about 20 blacks, a fact that pleased the defense.
How long the selection process will take wasn't clear Tuesday.
"This is not something that's scientific. We don't know how it's going to go," DeWitt County Judge Stephen Peters told one group of possible jurors about the length of time required to choose a panel.
Three groups of about 80 potential jurors each were summoned for meetings with the trial participants. LaGrone, dressed in gray slacks, a sweater, dress shirt and tie, stood and greeted the potential jurors during introductions.
LaGrone, 30, and his former girlfriend, Amanda Hamm, 29, each has pleaded innocent to nine counts of first-degree murder in the 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 into the lake.
The judge explained initial information about the case and how jury selection would be handled.
Attorneys for both sides also will have a chance to ask questions and can pass on any juror for cause or no cause, although they are limited on the number of jurors they can excuse without a stated reason.
The judge ordered potential jurors to avoid any media accounts of the case. He said the case could last six weeks, including two weeks of jury selection and a week of pretrial hearings in Clinton outside the jury.