On the same day that jury selection begins in two separate death penalty cases in Hillsborough Circuit Court, similar efforts are underway in Largo before a Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court judge. Jury selection has begun in the murder case against Patrick A. Evans, accused of shooting his wife and her friend.
Prosecutors allege that, on December 20, 2008, Evans went to his estranged wife’s Gulfport condo. She was there with a male friend. Evans is accused of shooting and killing them both with a handgun.
One of the topics to be covered in questioning was pretrial publicity. According to Evans’ defense attorney, the 2008 shootings and subsequent criminal case have been covered by local television. The St. Petersburg Times has also run articles regarding reports of domestic disturbances between Evans and his second and third wives.
The newspaper reports suggested that Evans was an abusive husband and featured information (allegations of other crimes) that will not be admissible in the murder trial.
The trial judge has allowed individual questioning of potential jurors by prosecutors and defense attorneys if they remembered the news coverage. Private questioning will keep the discussion from tainting the rest of the jury pool.
Questioning of jurors will take longer than in other cases, because the state is seeking the death penalty if Evans is convicted. If the jurors consider the evidence and return a guilty verdict on a count of first-degree murder, they will then hear additional evidence and testimony during the penalty phase of the trial, after which they will be asked to recommend whether Evans should be put to death. The trial judge will then consider that recommendation before pronouncing a sentence.