Kemar Johnston said little to nothing Tuesday during jury selection of his first-degree murder trial, but his attorneys did a lot of talking. They and prosecutors asked dozens of questions of the 98 prospective jurors who reported to the Lee County Justice Center, quizzing the county residents about their thoughts on the death penalty and what they know about the case. After a full day, only 36 of the 98 were questioned and of those, 27 were dismissed. Two other women were dismissed because of religious views and health issues. Johnston, 23, faces the possibility of the death penalty if he is convicted of the two counts of first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. Prosecutors argue that Johnston participated in the 2006 killings of Alexis Sosa, 18, and his 14-year-old nephew Jeffrey in Cape Coral. Johnston is believed to be a member of the Cash Feenz, a want-to-be rap group. Johnston attorney David Brener asked potential jurors extensive questions about their views on the death penalty. It likely will take most of today to question the remaining 60 potential jurors who haven’t been spoken to individually by Lee Circuit Judge Thomas Reese and attorneys.
At the current rate – 75 percent dismissal – only 24 of the original 98 prospective jurors would remain. Fourteen are needed – 12 plus two alternates. Both the defense and prosecution are able to strike 10 jurors for any reason. With those numbers, it will be difficult to pick a jury. Reese said Tuesday he won’t yet ask for additional jurors because he wants to finish questioning those who haven’t gone through the process. But the judge could ask for more people to report Thursday. Johnston and Kenneth Lopez, 21, are the only co-defendants who haven’t gone to trial. Eight others have been found guilty — either through trials or pleas, although co-defendant Paul Nunes decided last week he wants to get out of his plea agreement. Witnesses said Johnston shot Alexis Sosa in the kitchen of his duplex at 2124 N.E. Eighth Place. Co-defendants pegged Lopez and Johnston as shooting both Sosas in the trunk of their car at the North Cape Industrial Park and then Lopez as going back to burn the car.
Vonzell Solomon not selected Former “American Idol” contestant Vonzell Solomon of Fort Myers was one of Kemar Johnston’s prospective jurors. The 25-year-old singer and actress was dismissed from the panel after she told attorneys a person close to her has been killed and she has seen media coverage about this case. She said hearing details of the case made her cry and she wouldn’t be objective. Attorneys agreed she wouldn’t be a proper juror for the trial.