A jury has been seated in the first-degree murder trial of Robert Pilcher.
Wednesday began as a relatively uneventful morning at the Wapello County Courthouse for the second day of jury selection. The pool of potential jurors gathered as instructed at 9 a.m., but were dismissed until 11:30, then until 1:30 p.m.. Judge Meadows would only say the delay was caused by council discussing "legal matters" during that time.
However, defense attorney Allen Cook resumed his voir dire questioning early in the afternoon and a final jury of 11 men and 4 women was seated around 3 p.m.
During opening statements, both the state and defense urged the jury to use their common sense while listening to evidence in a 40-year-old case.
Assistant Attorney General Denise Timmins delivered an overview of the case and sequence of events, both from 1974 and 38 years later in 2010. She stressed to the jury that many of the witnesses will be testifying to memories that are 40 years old, so it is up to the jury to use common sense and connect the dots.
"You are going to be asked to use common sense, your reasonableness and your ability to look at the big picture and put the pieces together to make the determination that the defendant is the person responsible for the death of Mary Jayne Jones," Timmins said.
Defense attorney Allen Cook then delivered an equally brief opening statement, during which he hinted at the first points of his case; that although Pilcher knew the victim through her place of employment and asked her out several times, he was never seen with Jones outside Henry's Drive-Through, in his car or at the farmhouse where her body was found.
Cook told the jurors that Pilcher cooperated fully with the investigation in 1974, even providing hair and blood samples. Pilcher was interviewed the day after Jones' body was found without blood or evidence of a struggle on him.
Cook told the jury a defense team will often offer an alternative theory during opening arguments, but in this case, he doesn't have one. He says he only knows that while what happened to Jones was tragic, his client was not involved. In fact, evidence in the room where she was found could indicate that she was comfortable with the person she was with.
"I think generally, the defense theory would be that Mary Jayne Jones got involved with someone she didn't know was dangerous, somebody she trusted and she paid the ultimate price," Cook said.
The state was able to call its first witness before court dismissed for the day. Steve Day worked for the Wapello County Sheriff's Office for seven to eight years starting in 1974 and was called to the farmhouse where Jones was found in April 1974.
Day testified that he was at the scene for two to three hours and saw Jones' body before leaving with another deputy to interview her roommate.
Cook did not have any questions for Mr. Day on cross-examination. Court will resume at 9 a.m. Thursday.