HENNEPIN — Calling it “the elephant in the room,” Judge Stephen Kouri, at a June 28 hearing, discussed the challenge of jury selection that will be faced before a trial for Clifford A. Andersen Jr. can proceed in Putnam County.
Andersen, 68, of Standard is charged with killing his sister-in-law, Deborah Dewey, and concealing her body. Dewey, 62, of Ladd was reported missing in August 2016.
Her body was found on Sept. 12, 2016, in a shallow grave in a yard of a Standard home for which Andersen was caretaker. Police were alerted to the property following an interview with a person who had knowledge about the case. One day after Dewey’s body was found in Standard, police arrested Andersen.
“I think we’ll know by the end of the first day of jury selection whether or not we’ll be able to seat a jury here,” Kouri said during the status hearing on June 28.
Before jury selection begins on July 9, a final pretrial status hearing was scheduled for 10 a.m. July 5.
On that day, Kouri planned to make rulings regarding motions on the admissibility of photos and X-rays from Dewey’s autopsy, financial evidence, video surveillance and the chain of custody of evidence.
He’ll also be deciding on the stipulations of jury selection.
In response to the defense’s question regarding the admissibility of conversations Andersen had with his wife, Diane, Kouri said he’d already ruled on that motion. She will be allowed to be called and testify at the trial.
Assistant Illinois Attorney General Bill Elward stated he has a list of approximately 75 witnesses and will be providing the judge with a list before the next hearing.
Andersen’s lawyer, Drew Parker, of Peoria’s Parker and Parker Law Firm, said he’ll be calling about 14 witnesses to take the stand.
A change of venue to a Tazewell County courtroom is possible if a jury is unable to be seated in Putnam County, and Kouri was concerned the amount of witnesses being called could negatively impact jury selection.
“I’ve tried over 220 jury trials and never had anywhere near that number of witnesses,” Kouri said.
Elward said many of his witnesses won’t be on the stand long, and that some will bolster both the video surveillance and financial evidence that has been previously challenged by the defense.
While the judge has previously ruled largely in favor of the defense on those issues, he also left the option for the prosecution to regain their admissibility if stronger evidence can prove their relevance.
Kouri has anticipated jury selection will take up to three days and said it should be known by the end of the first day whether they’ll be able to select a local jury.
Both Elward and Parker were in agreement with the questionnaire for the approximately 300 prospective jurors.
Two to four alternates will also be chosen from the pool.
Kouri also said it was up to the lawyers to come to an agreement before the July 5 hearing on whether prospects would be interviewed as a group or one-by-one, saying it’s been his experience individual interviews don’t necessarily mean the process will be slower.
Elward additionally stated during the hearing that the state is continuing to provide discovery evidence that is being shared with the defense.