WILMINGTON - Attorneys for murder suspect Vincent Doan turned the tedious task of selecting a jury into a key part of their strategy to get the trial moved to another city.
John Rion, who is representing Mr. Doan, questioned potential jurors about how the media in this highly publicized case had impacted their feelings toward his client or the victim Carrie Culberson.
"There's no way we could get a fair trial," Mr. Rion said after Monday's proceedings. "This case needs to go to Columbus where nobody knows anything about the case and there hasn't been all this media attention."
Mr. Rion raised concerns that the majority of potential jurors knew witnesses who may be called in the case, as well as details of the case itself.
Clinton County Prosecutor William Peelle said he disagreed with Mr. Rion, but would not elaborate.
Clinton County Common Pleas Judge William McCracken has not issued a ruling on Mr. Rion's request to move the trial out of Wilmington, 30 minutes from Blanchester where Mr. Doan, 24, allegedly kidnapped and killed Ms. Culberson, 22, last August.
Mr. Doan has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and aggravated murder in the commission of a felony (kidnapping) and four counts of kidnapping. A conviction on the charge of aggravated murder in the commission of a felony would make him eligible for the death penalty.
The selection of 12 jurors from the pool of 145 was expected to wrap up Wednesday but could last through the end of the week. Mr. Rion said the longer it takes, the clearer it becomes that there is a problem finding an unbiased jury.
Mr. Doan, dressed in a blue shirt, tie, white cardigan sweater and gray dress pants, frequently looked out into the courtroom during Monday's proceedings, smiling at friends and family who had gathered. Several times he winked and mouthed the words "Love you," but it was unclear who was the object of those sentiments.
While Mr. Doan's mother, Priscilla Doan, and father, Lawrence Baker, sat in the last few rows of the courtroom, surrounded by friends and family, the Culberson camp took up the first two benches.
During a break, Carrie's mother, Debbie Culberson, talked about the support she has received from family, friends and church. "If anybody had to go through something like this, I would hope they would be as fortunate as I have been to have such a (good) family and friends," she said.
Carrie's father, Roger, and only sibling Christina also were in the courtroom Monday.
Since her daughter disappeared Aug. 29, 1996, Mrs. Culberson said she suspected Mr. Doan had something to do with it.
Her ardent belief in his guilt is equalled only by Mrs. Doan's insistence that her son is innocent.
"I know that he ain't guilty," Mrs. Doan said outside the courtroom. In fact, Mrs. Doan said she has borrowed much of her strength from her son during this trying period.
"He tells me, 'Mom, hang in there. I'm innocent and we'll get through this,' " she said.
But to 'get through this' may mean listening to the testimony of 100-plus witnesses whom the defense and prosecution have said they may call to testify during what is expected to be a 3-week trial.