(CBS/AP) AKRON, Ohio - Jury selection began Tuesday in the trial of the alleged mastermind of a deadly plot that killed three men and left one man wounded after they were lured with phony job offers on Craigslist.
Nine uniformed deputies watched as more than 200 prospective jurors gathered for the murder trial of 53-year-old Richard Beasley. They entered the lobby of the Akron Civic Theater because there was no courthouse room big enough.
Judge Lynne Callahan said jury selection could extend into next week and the trial could last six weeks. She expects opening statements on Feb. 27. Beasley waived his right to be present during the selection. He has pleaded not guilty to a 27-count indictment.
Prosecutors portrayed Beasley as an ex-con street preacher in Akron who mentored Brogan Rafferty, a teenager who was sentenced to life in prison in November 2012 after being found guilty in the plot. Because of his age, Rafferty wasn't eligible for the death penalty.
Prospective jurors filled out questionnaires and were divided into small groups and given times to report to the judge's courtroom for questioning. The judge said questions would focus on the length of the trial, pre-trial publicity and views of the death penalty.
Jurors will be sequestered in a hotel while deliberating the verdict and, if necessary, on whether to recommend the death sentence.
Prosecutors asked deputies to bring Rafferty from prison to testify at Beasley's trial. At his sentencing, Rafferty said the crimes were horrible but said he didn't recognize any chance to stop the killings.
Rafferty's attorney told the judge that his client is willing to testify against Beasley. He said the teen wouldn't stand convicted if it wasn't for Beasley.
The jury rejected the defense claim that Rafferty feared for himself and his family if he didn't cooperate with Beasley.
Prosecutors said the victims were lured with phony offers of farmhand jobs on Craigslist in 2011. The murdered men were 56-year-old Ralph Geiger, 51-year-old David Pauley and 47-year-old Timothy Kern. The lone survivor, Scott Davis, was shot in the arm, knocked the weapon aside and fled into the woods.