WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) — For the first time in 26 years, a Florida police officer will stand trial for an on-duty killing.
On Thursday, jury selection began in the trial of a former Palm Beach Gardens police officer, accused of murdering a local church drummer, as he waited for a tow truck along I-95 in October of 2015.
Both sides began with a pool of 100 prospective jurors.
The judge excused twenty people for a variety of hardships.
Of the remaining potential jurors, twenty had no knowledge of the case; they then filled out questionnaires and are set to return on Friday.
The remaining sixty jurors are being interviewed by both sides to measure their extent of their knowledge of the case
Nouman Raja is charged with manslaughter and attempted first-degree murder in the death of 31-year-old Corey Jones.
Prosecutors say Jones was on his way home from Jupiter after playing a gig with his band; that’s when his car broke down along I-95 near PGA Boulevard.
As he waited for a tow truck to arrive, officer Raja, who was on-duty but not dressed in uniform, pulled over in an unmarked van.
A short time later, they say Raja shot and killed Jones, claiming self-defense.
The recording of Jones’ call to roadside assistance contained audio of both the confrontation and the gunshots, evidence that prosecutors say contradicts Raja’s story.
Last year, a judge rejected Raja’s stand your ground claim.
The defense has requested a change of venue, saying they do not think they can get a fair trial in Palm Beach County.
The state disagreed.
At any point during jury selection, the judge can decide to change the venue if he thinks there will be a problem seating an impartial jury.
At a hearing in January, the judge made sure both sides understood the magnitude of the case and set ground rules for the trial.
The judge stated the courtroom will hold a capacity of 177 people. Each side will have equal representation of family, friends and the community.
Circuit Judge Joseph Mark on Thursday ordered a ban on spectators from wearing "clothing or uniforms that display insignia, messages, pictures, or the like, in clear favor of either the State or Defendant" within the courthouse in view of prospective jurors and jury.
The trial is expected to last several weeks.
Late Thursday afternoon, Raja's attorneys, in an effort to get a fair trial, filed a motion to preclude they call the "unconstitutional seating of biased jurors and to preclude qualification of jurors based on answers to "follow the law" questions.
Any court ruling from the case can be found in a special section on the Palm Beach County clerk's website.