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Opening statements in death penalty case today

POSTED: August 24, 2008 5:01 a.m.
Hall County jurors will be asked to pack their bags this morning for a death penalty trial that will have them sequestered in an area hotel until its conclusion.

Final jury selection of 16 people, including four alternates, is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in the trial of Ignacio Vergara. Opening statements are slated for this afternoon.

Qualification of 56 potential jurors was completed in Senior Superior Court Judge John Girardeau’s court late Tuesday afternoon, the seventh day of jury selection in Vergara’s trial. Each person was questioned individually and had to be open to any of three sentencing options: life with the possibility of parole, life without parole or death by lethal injection.

Vergara has maintained a plea of not guilty.

Vergara, 26, is charged with murder in the March 13, 2002, shooting deaths of Alejandro Santana and Francesco Saucedo, whose bodies were found in a parked car on a remote South Hall road.

It is the first death penalty case to be tried by Hall County prosecutors since 1999. A Hall County jury was seated to hear a Towns County death penalty case in 2005.

Jury sequestration is typical in death penalty trials. Jurors are put up in hotels to insulate them from news media coverage of the case as well as prevent them from talking about the case before they are asked to begin deliberations.

Trying of the case is expected to take about a week.



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