Graphic details in murder case repel possible jurors
The murder trial about to start in Riverhead already is remarkable for the potential jurors who hustled to escape the courtroom after they told the court they were nauseated by the graphic outline of the case.
In the past two weeks, during jury selection, Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Janet Albertson has repeatedly warned prospective jurors that the evidence in the case against Evans Ganthier, 33, of Port Jefferson Station will be upsetting.
She has told potential jurors that Ganthier was accused of more than merely stabbing to death Rebecca Koster, 24, of Medford in December 2009. Ganthier is charged with second-degree murder in Koster's death and faces 25 years to life if convicted.
"You're going to hear very, very gruesome and very, very graphic details about what was done to Becky's body," Albertson told them. She warned potential jurors that they will hear how Ganthier cut off all the fingertips, toes, ears, nose, hair and two tattoos of the woman and then set her body on fire.
Albertson said the evidence will show Ganthier did all this not just to obscure the identity of Koster's body, which he dumped in Connecticut, but to cover up evidence of what he did.
"If you're going to sit on this case, you have to be able to see and hear this evidence," she told potential jurors.
"I can't do it," one woman said. "Just listening to you is disturbing."
"I'm getting a little squeamish right now," one man said, shakily. "It would probably make me sick to my stomach."
Another man said, "I've got major cotton mouth right now. My stomach is in knots."
State Supreme Court Justice Richard Ambro excused them and numerous others who said the case was too repulsive for them to hear fairly.
During jury selection, defense attorney William Keahon of Hauppauge has focused on whether innocent people can be charged with crimes, and if detectives ever lie in court.
"I'll address the claimed evidence in the courtroom" during the trial, he said.
That evidence includes video recordings showing Ganthier and Koster together at a bar the night she was killed and Ganthier on the ferry from Port Jefferson to Bridgeport the next morning.
It also includes statements Ganthier made to detectives in which they say he admitted dismembering, dumping and burning Koster's body.
He denied stabbing her, however. Detectives say he told them Koster tripped over some dumbbells in his garage and cracked her head, then died while he drove her to the hospital.
Albertson has said an autopsy showed no sign of any head injury.