Jury picked for Rizzuto’s trial
Picking a jury for this week’s trial of accused armed robber Anthony Rizzuto on Tuesday proved to be no easier than it was a month ago for his trial then on burglary charges.
At one point Tuesday, the defense attorney in the case promised a prospective juror that this trial would be nothing at all like the notorious murder trial of O.J. Simpson, responding to the woman’s concerns that trials are all circuses where the lawyers deliberately introduce erroneous and misleading information.
One juror announced to the judge, “I don’t have a particular fondness for the law, but I think we do the best we can.”
And a woman who is five months pregnant won a concession from the judge that she can munch on snacks and have a beverage throughout the trial.
The court also heard from a woman who felt she might not be able to serve because of traumatic memories about a friend whose house was burglarized and who was kidnapped, taken out into the desert near Grand Junction, shot and left for dead by the burglars.
In all, at least eight prospective jurors said they themselves or friends close to them had been victims of burglaries or robberies. Of the first 13 potential jurors seated at the beginning of the day, 11 said they knew the defendant, his parents or some of the witnesses scheduled to testify.
Some among the roomful of potential jurors indicated a reluctance to convict a defendant so young, a sentiment that in part led jurors in December to find Rizzuto guilty only on the least serious of the five charges facing him.
And one woman indicated plainly that she had already decided Rizzuto is guilty of the crimes he is charged with, and that she would convict him no matter what evidence came out in the trial.
Starting at about 10 a.m., it took the judge and two lawyers until nearly 6 p.m. to seat a panel of 13 jurors – almost exactly the same amount of time it took to seat a jury in mid-December for a trial on charges that Rizzuto helped burglarize a house on Twining Flats. He was convicted on one count of conspiracy to commit theft in that trial and is awaiting sentencing, which could be as much as three years in prison.
The jury seated on Tuesday will spend the next three days deciding whether Rizzuto is guilty of robbing the Aspen Alps Condominium office at gunpoint on Aug. 6, 1999.
According to police, Rizzuto, 20, and an accomplice rushed into the condo office at around 10 p.m. that night, pointed a gun at the sole woman working there and forced her to give them more than $1,000 from various safes and cash drawers.
The young man the police say was in on the robbery with Rizzuto, Thomas Colver, pleaded guilty to the charges last year and is scheduled to testify against Rizzuto in this week’s trial. Colver, also 20, confessed in return for a reduced charge of simple robbery. He is now serving a six-year prison term for that conviction combined with an earlier conviction on felony drug charges.
Rizzuto is being tried on charges of armed robbery, theft and conspiracy to commit theft. If convicted on all three counts, and sentenced to consecutive maximum prison terms, he could be in prison for 21 years from this case alone.
The trial is expected to resume this morning and continue through the end of Friday.
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