Jury selection begins in Desmonte Leonard trial

Jury selection begins in Desmonte Leonard trial
File video of Desmonte Leonard.
File video of Desmonte Leonard.

AUBURN, AL (WTVM) - Jury selection is underway for the capital murder trial of Desmonte Leonard, the man accused of murdering three people and injuring three more in a mass shooting in Auburn.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in this case, which is partly why jury selection is expected to last several days because both the defense and the prosecution will quiz each potential juror about their views on the death penalty.

The judge is only allowing the media to film opening and closing arguments, so we do not have video of the defendant Desmonte Leonard in court Monday, Sept. 22.

His mother and other family and friends were in court with him.

June 9, 2012 was the night investigators say an argument at a pool party at the University Heights Apartment Complex sparked the worst mass shooting in Auburn history.

Police say Leonard, then 22, was the gunman when the incident happened at about 10 p.m. that night.

When the shooting was over, 20-year-old DeMario Pitts of Opelika and former Auburn University football players, 20-year-old Ladarious Phillips and 20-year-old Ed Christian, were dead.

Former AU football player Eric Mack, 20, and Roanoke natives Xavier Moss, 19, and John Robertson, 20, were injured.

It would take a massive, three-day manhunt for Leonard to be taken into custody, when he surrendered to US Marshalls in Montgomery.

During his preliminary hearing, surveillance video was played from cameras at the complex, showing portions of the shooting, but the portions that were played in court did not show Leonard with a gun.

Susan James, Leonard's attorney says her client maintains his innocence. At this point, Leonard has pleaded not guilty.

He is not using an insanity defense, but is expected to claim the shooting was in self-defense.

We did learn in pre-trial hearings that Leonard says he has been shot before and is sensitive to perceived threats.

James has said she is not sure if she will call her client to the stand to testify in his own defense.

Jury selection is expected to last until Thursday or Friday.

So far, a lot of potential jurors say they do have a connection to Auburn University. With some of the victims being former football players at AU, it's possible the defense will not want to have those people as jurors.

We did ask Leonard's attorney if she felt like a fair jury could be seated here in Lee County for her client, and she said she had no comment at this time.

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