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Trial starts in murder case

Jury seated on Friday

It took a full day to go through the jury selection process, but 14 jurors -- 12 jurors and two alternates -- have been seated in a Washougal man's trial on first degree murder charges.

The trial, State vs. Michael David Lindsey, involves the March 2005 murder of James D. Morris of Washougal. The body of Morris, 22, was discovered in a shallow grave in a wooded area off Rattlesnake Road, a few miles northeast of Husum.

Lindsey is charged with alleged first degree murder.

A pool of 88 jurors were called to the County Courthouse in Goldendale on Jan. 26, for what is expected to be a two-week trial.

The victim had last been seen alive in Washougal. Morris had been reported missing on March 15, 2005, and his body was found a week later, on March 23.

The medical examination of the body revealed that Morris was hit by two shotgun blasts -- one to the neck and one directly below the rib cage.

According to then-Sheriff Chris Mace of the Klickitat County Sheriff's Office, authorities believe Morris was slain where his body was located.

"The evidence leads us to believe the crime did occur in that area," Mace said in March 2005.

On March 30, 2005, Michael D. Lindsey, 21, and Darlene M. McClellan, 41, both of Washougal, were arrested in Clarkston, a small town near the Idaho border in southeastern Washington.

Lindsey and McClellan were subsequently charged with alleged aggravated murder in the first degree.

A 12-gauge shotgun believed to have been used in the crime was recovered in Washougal during a search after the arrest of the pair.

Because of the number of potential jurors called and the fact that this is a first degree murder case, the jury selection process was unusually lengthy.

Normally the proceedings begin at 9 a.m., with a jury seated by noon. In this case, however, choosing the jurors took the entire day.

One of the citizens called to the courthouse but not chosen for jury duty was John Mayo, a member of the White Salmon City Council.

"It took quite a long time. The final jury selection was not until 5 p.m., and we didn't get out of there until 5:15," Mayo said. "I was number 44, and they went all the way to number 42 to select members of the jury."

Mayo observed that more than jury selection was going on that day.

"It was obvious that the case had begun, and the lawyers were already working the potential jurors," Mayo explained. "You could see it was a popularity contest from the very beginning. It was an interesting balancing act. The attorneys on both sides were trying so hard to be very nice so everybody would like them, but at the same time being cutthroat to get what they wanted. I found it totally fascinating."

A spokesperson in the Superior Court clerk's office said she could not remember a previous case where it took so long to select the members of the jury.

"I don't remember going this late over the past 20 years," she said.

Although first degree murder can be punishable by the death penalty in the state of Washington, the death penalty is not an option in this trial due to alleged "mitigating factors."

Lindsey is being represented by Goldendale attorneys Gwendolyn Grundei and Gene Hanson, while the prosecution team is being led by Craig Juris, chief criminal deputy prosecutor for the Klickitat County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

The honorable Superior Court Judge E. Thompson Reynolds will preside over the trial, which got under way on Jan. 29.

Klickitat County Prosecuting Attorney Tim O'Neill said the 14 jurors who will ultimately decide on Lindsey's guilt or innocence will not be sequestered. They will be able to go home in the evenings, although they will be instructed not to talk about the case and not to read newspapers or see or hear other accounts of the trial.

The trial of Darlene McClellan, the other suspect in the Morris murder, is scheduled to start on Sept. 17. McClellan faces the same charges in the case as Lindsey -- the alleged first degree murder of Morris -- but defendants Lindsey and McClellan both requested separate trials.


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