Las Vegas Sun

September 20, 2014

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With new jurors in place, opening statements set in Williams’ trial

Opening statements in the trial of a Las Vegas woman accused of mowing down six teenagers along Interstate 15 was set to begin this morning.

Attorneys in the Jessica Williams case finished selecting a second jury Friday afternoon, and Williams has since been placed on suicide watch at the Clark County Detention Center.

Jail officials would not release a reason for Williams being placed under 24-hour surveillance at the facility, and will only confirm that she is on suicide watch, Metro Police spokesman Lt. Marc Joseph said.

A second jury had to be selected after District Judge Mark Gibbons declared a mistrial Tuesday, when questions arose as to whether one of the jurors was biased.

The first jury panel was predominantly middle-aged, but the second has a significant number of jurors who appear to be in their 20s and 30s.

Because Williams, 21, is accused of driving with marijuana and Ecstasy in her system, many courthouse observers speculate the age of the jurors may have an impact in their verdict.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Gary Booker struck two jurors from the panel who admitted to smoking marijuana, raising an objection by defense attorney John Watkins.

Defendants are supposed to be judged by a jury of their peers, Watkins said. To remove the men solely because they smoke marijuana is akin to removing a juror because of their race, religion or gender, he said.

Gibbons said marijuana smokers are not recognized as a protected class of people.

Among those who made the jury panel is a man whose two sons have served jail time for driving under the influence, a woman whose son-in-law is a convicted drunken driver and a man who served jail time for possessing drug paraphernalia. A fourth juror's brother was placed on probation for selling drugs.

Williams, 21, is accused of running over and killing six children as they picked up trash in the median of Interstate 15 on March 19.

Prosecutors contend Williams passed out while under the influence of marijuana and Ecstasy. Her attorney maintains she simply fell asleep.

Those killed were Malena Stoltzfus, Rebeccah Glicken, Jennifer Booth, Anthony Smith, Scott Garner Jr. and Alberto Puig. All of the youths were 14 to 16 years old.

Williams has been charged with six counts each of reckless driving, involuntary manslaughter and driving under the influence of a controlled or prohibited substance. She has also been charged with one count each of being under the influence of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Williams faces up to 120 years if convicted.

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