Jury selection moves forward, third day needed

Jury selection continues in Jeffery Willis case

MUSKEGON, MICH. - After two full days of jury selection, still no jury to hear the case against Jeffrey Willis.

He's the man charged with the June 2014 murder of Rebekah Bletsch who was shot in the head while jogging along Automobile Road.

The process of reducing a pool of 130 jurors down to around 50 started Tuesday morning.

The remaining jurors in the pool were asked to report back to the Muskegon Hall of Justice early Thursday morning.

The Muskegon Circuit Court called more than 320 county residents as potential jurors. So far only the first group of 130 were required to report to the courthouse.

Most of the day those individuals have been sequestered on the six floor of the courthouse.

Individually they are being called into the courtroom and questioned by Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson and Willis attorney Frederick Johnson.

The judge is also asking each individual if they have significant conflicts that would prevent them from serving as a juror on a trial that may last three weeks.

For the first time in court defendant Jeffrey Willis is wearing a suit and tie. It appears he's also recently had a hair cut.

Cameras are not allowed to record jury selection. 

Willis is also charged in the kidnapping and murder of Jessica Heeringa in April 2013. Her body has never been found. And the kidnapping of a teen girl who told police she escaped from his van.

Most of the potential jurors are being asked if they can be a fair, and follow the judge's instructions.

All have said yes, but for some there's been hesitation in answering yes.

Complicating matters for jury selection is that the crimes Jeffrey Willis is charged with received significant attention not by newspapers, television stations, and radio stations, and also on social media.

The judge, prosecutor, and public defender want to know if potential jurors know any of Willis' three alleged victims. If seated as a jurors they will be asked to make a decision based on evidence presented at trial and ignor any information they may have learned outside of court.

Cooley Law School professor Curt Benson says jury selection in this case is complicated by the circumstances around the death of Rebekah Bletsch. 

"It is a random particularly sad brutal crime, from a defense point of view I think it is difficult to tamp down the natural emotions that rise up in a jury and try to get them to focus rationally on just the evidence and try to keep the emotions at bay." said Benson. 

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