Wednesday, April 28, 1999

Furnish jury selection slow




BY SUSAN VELA
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Fifty-three Kenton Countians were to return to court today to face the possibility of sitting as jurors in the capital murder trial for Fred Furnish, who allegedly burglarized, robbed and murdered a Crestview Hills woman in June.

        Ten jurors were dismissed Tuesday, the first day of the trial, indicating that Mr. Furnish's trial promises to be a long one. Kenton Circuit Judge Steve Jaeger said that a 12-member jury might not be seated until early next week.

        Yet the judge told Kenton Commonwealth Attorney Don Buring and the public defense team — Mary Rafizadeh, Mike Folk and Bill Spicer — that there's the outside possibility that it could happen sooner and that they should be ready to deliver their opening arguments on Friday.

        “To be quite honest with you, I don't see it happening. But it could,” Judge Jaeger said.

        The judge and attorneys say that the trial will take longer than most because of the finality involved. Mr. Furnish, 31, of Covington, faces the commonwealth's harshest sentence — death — if he is convicted of murdering 66-year-old Jean Williamson in her home June 25.

        Her housekeeper discovered her body that afternoon. There were ransacked jewelry boxes but no sign of forced entry when police arrived. Investigators turned to Mr. Furnish after they found a receipt bearing his name on Ms. Williamson's kitchen table. The receipt was for a May 19 carpet cleaning.

        Mr. Furnish, who has a history of burglary convictions, was arrested three days later. Court documents contend Mr. Furnish used Ms. Williamson's debit card within minutes after her slaying. Mr. Furnish allegedly then used cash and traded Ms. Williamson's jewelry to get crack cocaine.

        He also faces charges of burglary, robbery, theft and receiving goods by fraud in the case. At Tuesday's proceedings, Judge Jaeger told the audience that the trial most likely would conclude the week of May 17. Many of the 10 dismissed were excused because of scheduling conflicts — trips and other obligations.

        Mr. Buring began asking jurors questions in the late morning and continued through the afternoon. At one point, he indicated a large list of potential witnesses by naming about 20 officers with at least three law enforcement agencies.

        He said that these were names that jurors could hear during the trial and he wanted to know if anyone knew them, and, if they did, whether that would impair their ability to be a fair and impartial juror.

        At the end of the day, Judge Jaeger said it was crucial that potential jurors not get stressed out about having to possibly hear a murder trial that involves the pursuit of the death penalty.

        There will be four sentencing options if Mr. Furnish is convicted of murder: death, life with the possibility of parole in 25 years, life with the possibility of parole in 12 years, or 20 years to life.

       



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