By JAMES GROB, Ottumwa Radio
(Mt. Pleasant) – The retrial of Seth Techel got off to an unusual start on Monday during jury selection. A large crowd of potential jurors packed the courtroom of the Henry County Courthouse in Mt. Pleasant, Monday. Jury selection has begun for the second trial of 23 year old Seth Techel who stands accused of first degree murder in the May 2012 death of his pregnant wife Lisa Caldwell-Techel.
On Monday morning in Mount Pleasant, 40 potential jurors had been selected at random and it appeared as though attorneys would begin the process of narrowing the field down to 16 – 12 jurors and 4 alternates – in the afternoon. However, district judge Dan Wilson instructed the attendants to contact all those in the jury pool who had not bothered to show up Monday morning and inform them of their civic obligations.
When 10 of the jurors who were absent that morning showed up that afternoon, the judge decided to start the jury seating process all over again, putting all 40 jurors back into the pool and choosing 40 new jurors again at random. In the end, 22 new jurors were called and 18 of the original 40 jurors were called back.
Prosecutor Andrew Prosser then began the screening process. Under questioning, six jurors claimed to have already formed an opinion on the case, and those six asked to be “dismissed for cause.” Judge Wilson evaluated each case one-on-one, and the six were dismissed.
Jury selection will continue, Tuesday, with the prosecution screening jurors, followed by the defense.
The narrowing of the jury pool is expected to conclude on Tuesday afternoon. Opening arguments are expected to begin late Tuesday or Wednesday morning.
Techel faced trial for the same charges in February of this year, but a Wapello County jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. District Court Judge Daniel Wilson moved the re-trial to Mt. Pleasant, on a change of venue, in hopes that a Henry County jury will be able to do what a Wapello County jury could not, reach a verdict in case. Techel is officially charged with First Degree Murder and Non-Consensual Termination of a Human Pregnancy. Techel and attorneys for both sides entered the courtroom at 9:30 a.m., Monday with the Assistant Iowa Attorney General, Andrew Prosser, leading the prosecution and Steven Gardner leading the defense.
The prosecution, is expected to once again contend, that the evidence proves that Techel and only Techel had the means, motive and opportunity to commit the murder. The defense is, once again, expected to argue that the police ignored other possible suspects. Gardner filed a witness list of 70 names, earlier this month. The trial is expected to last 3 to 4 weeks.