Trial finally starts in El Jebel double murder case
Two years and two months after Williams Anderson Amaya fatally shot his aunt and uncle in their midvalley home, a trial has begun to determine whether he was sane at the time of the crime.
Hundreds of Eagle County residents were called in waves into an Eagle County district courtroom Monday for possible jury duty.
The trial is scheduled to run for three weeks, Judge Paul Dunkelman told about 75 prospective jurors crowded into the courtroom in the first wave.
However, the proceedings got off to an inauspicious start. An accident on Interstate 70 on Vail Pass temporarily closed the road and then kept traffic crawling at a slow pace. Key personnel in the case were delayed, Dunkelman said, so he wasn’t able to start the jury-selection process at 9 a.m. as planned. It started about 30 minutes late.
Dunkelman announced the plan was to have each wave of jurors fill out a questionnaire. The prosecuting and defending attorneys planned to review the questionnaires throughout Monday and into today to determine who would be released and who would remain in the pool.
The goal was to have a jury seated by Thursday, Dunkelman said.
Court officials intended to summon 400 people for possible jury duty in the case. In addition to the 75 who initially crowded into the courtroom, scores more were out in the hall waiting their turn to fill out the questionnaire. The Eagle County Court Clerk’s Office said 219 potential jurors appeared Monday.
Dunkelman warned the crowd not to research the case Monday night or any other time in an effort to get out of jury duty. He said the only information they should digest on the case should come from the court proceedings.
He informed the pool that Amaya is charged with two counts of murder in the first degree, two counts of attempted murder in the first degree and tampering with physical evidence.
Amaya pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. The prosecution team, led by Joe Kirwan, contends Amaya knew what he was doing on the evening of July 12, 2014.
Amaya shot Eliseo and Mayra Lopez in their Sopris Village home, where he was renting a room. Investigators said they found bullet holes in the bedding of the Lopezes two sons, indicating Amaya intended to kill them, as well. The sons escaped by running out of the house.
The 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office is seeking life in prison for Amaya. If a jury finds Amaya is insane, he will be held in a mental institution until he can prove his sanity is restored, if ever.
Amaya was escorted into the courtroom right before proceedings started. He wore headphones so an interpreter could translate the conversation into Spanish for him in real time.
The trial couldn’t begin until after Amaya was assessed at the Colorado state mental hospital.
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