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Keith Norman, Forum Communications Co., Published February 06 2012

Jury selection begins in Jamestown murder trial

JAMESTOWN, N.D. – Jury selection in the murder trial of Janelle Cave, 22, of Jamestown, got under way in Southeast District Court here Monday.

Cave is accused of killing Abdi Ali Ahmed, 18, of Jamestown, on April 30, 2011. Ahmed’s body was found in a ditch near Spiritwood, N.D. The cause of death was blunt-force trauma to the head.

Cave and Leron Lee Howard, 34, of Jamestown, are charged with murder and criminal conspiracy. Each charge is a class AA felony punishable by life in prison without parole.

Howard is scheduled for trial on Aug. 7.

Eighty potential jurors were questioned on a number of issues during the selection process.

David Ogren, court-appointed attorney for Cave, asked potential jurors if they or any family members had ever been involved in an assault or been a victim of a crime.

He also asked about their television-viewing habits.

“Do you watch a lot of CSI-type programs?” he asked. “Do you get into the forensics, or is it just entertainment? The biggest thing is reality versus drama. What you’ll see is real life.”

Ogren asked potential jurors about alcohol use and if they had ever done anything while drunk they later regretted.

He also asked about the potential juror’s ability to look at disturbing evidence.

“This case involves medical-type pictures,” he said. “We will try to limit it to what needs to be seen, but some of the pictures could be graphic in nature, such as autopsy photos.”

Fritz Fremgen, Stutsman County state’s attorney, asked potential jurors if they had color blindness or ever witnessed a stabbing or attempted stabbing and if any had military bayonet training.

Fremgen asked if potential jurors were comfortable with legal concepts like conspiracy and being an accomplice.

Jurors were also asked if they would have issues making life-altering decisions. One potential juror was excused because he felt he was uncomfortable making those types of decisions.

Other jurors were excused because they had family or personal health problems that would interfere during the estimated two-week duration of the trial.

Jury selection will continue today. Each side in the case is allowed to remove 11 potential jurors without having to give any cause or reason.

Keith Norman writes for The Jamestown Sun