By Philip Jankowski
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON - The first day of the trial of three individuals accused of conspiring to kill a Fort Hood soldier for a life insurance pay-out concluded Monday evening after lawyers spent the entire day whittling a pool of 100 potential jurors to a panel of 12.
Throughout the day, potential jurors were asked their opinions of certain aspects that may play a part in the trial. After extensive questioning, a panel of seven women and five men was seated, along with two alternates for the trial of Kathryn Nellie Briggs, Kyle James Moesch and John Anthony Valdez.
What caused the most confusion among the pool of jurors were two instructions given by Bell County Assistant District Attorney Murff Bledsoe, who is the lead prosecutor in the trial.
Bledsoe pointed to one aspect of criminal law, the so-called rule of parties, to show that co-conspirators in a crime that leads to a murder can all be charged with the same level of offense.
Bledsoe also told the panel it must judge each defendant separately.
The two statements perplexed some jurors, who did not understand how they should render separate verdicts for each defendant if they have all been charged with the same crime.
Moesch's attorney, Stephen Blythe, asked jurors if they could consider finding someone guilty of a lesser included charge, or if one should be brought up during proceedings.
Blythe's question hinted at a possible strategy for his client. According to arrest affidavits, Moesch did not participate in the stabbing death of Fort Hood soldier Ryan Michael Sullivan.
But Moesch did admit to tampering with evidence when he helped Valdez dispose of bloodied clothing presumably used during the Oct. 11, 2008, murder.
Briggs' attorney, Jack Holmes, showed that he will likely focus on the lack of physical evidence connecting his client to the killing. He gave potential jurors a
hypothetical situation in which two brothers were obviously implicated in wrongdoing, but little evidence existed for a third brother.
"It's going to become very clear to you about halfway through the trial," Holmes said as to why he had put forth the hypothetical.
Blythe told the panel Moesch will plead not guilty today, and Holmes alluded to the scope of the trial's discovery, which includes more than 5,000 pages of documents.
The panel was also asked about its biases concerning soldiers. Moesch, 26, and Valdez, 26, were both active-duty soldiers at the time of the slaying.
Both served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Briggs, 28, worked at an IRS office in Austin at the time of her arrest.
If convicted of the charges against them, each defendant would face an automatic sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The trial continues today in Judge Martha Trudo's 264th District Court.
Contact Philip Jankowski at email@example.com or (254) 501-7553. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcrime.