How does the court pick jurors for a capital murder trial? - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

How does the court pick jurors for a capital murder trial?

Brian Suniga, 34 (Source: Lubbock County Detention Center) Brian Suniga, 34 (Source: Lubbock County Detention Center)
Sesilio Lopez (Source: Lubbock County Detention Center) Sesilio Lopez (Source: Lubbock County Detention Center)

Jury selection is underway for a capital murder trial in Lubbock County, but it's going to take some time.

Brian Suniga, 34, is behind bars in the Lubbock County Detention Center with a bond set at one million dollars.

He is facing trial for the murder of 26-year-old David Rowser. Rowser was killed back in 2011, when police said Suniga and 30-year-old Sesilio Lopez robbed One Guy From Italy restaurant at 50th and Quaker. Police said Rowser suffered a gunshot wound to the chest.

KCBD wanted to find out how jury selection works in a capital murder trial. The 23-page juror questionnaire consists of 110 questions. Potential jurors are asked to answer everything honestly and are guaranteed confidentiality by the court.

KCBD asked Lubbock residents what they would expect to be on a juror questionnaire for potential jurors in a capital murder trial.

They said they would expect questions about their criminal history, their opinion of the death penalty, and if they know the defendant, questions which were all found in the questionnaire.

However, as they read through all 110 questions, they found several they said they would not be too eager to answer.

"If I were picked for the jury, I wouldn't answer even half the questions on here, like what are your favorite hobbies, recreation or pastimes and spare time activities," said Joseph Roberts.

"The hours you watch your television, I think that shouldn't even matter," said Anna Torres.

"The television shows you watch; I think that's just your private time," said Gabriela Palscenci.

"What is your religious affiliation? I don't think that's a question they should be asking," Roberts said as he read from the questionnaire. "Do you know the stance of your church or denomination on the death penalty? That's something they shouldn't know either, " he added as he continued to read from the questionnaire.

"You're just getting grilled about everything that they don't need to know," said Roberts' wife, Krystle Roberts.

These residents said quite a few questions struck them as odd.

"Why would they care what kind of bumper stickers I have or what magazines I'm reading?" Torres asked.

"Have you ever written a letter to an editor or called a talk show? How many hours do you spend each week watching television? List your favorite television programs," Roberts read from the questionnaire as his wife laughed.

"What does that even have to do with anything?" Krystle Roberts asked.

Just how honest would these residents be, facing all these personal questions, even knowing the court promises to keep their information confidential?

"I would answer maybe 90 percent of them really truthfully," said Anthony Vega.

"I wouldn't even know how to answer half of them," Torres said.

When asked what word they would use to describe the questionnaire, Joseph replied, "ridiculous" while his wife said, "insane."

All the questions do serve a purpose. Attorneys not related to this case say the questions give them insight into how jurors feel about the justice system and more.

Sesilio Lopez is also behind bars charged with capital murder. Lubbock police believe he and Suniga worked together that night. Lopez's trial date has not yet been set.

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