It was a long and relatively uneventful day for a group of Bedford County citizens selected to be in a jury pool for what’s expected to be a two-week murder trial.
But the lengthy questioning levied upon each three-person panel is important: it proves any juror who’s ultimately selected will be able to render a fair verdict in a high-profile case that could end in a death sentence for a man who’s accused of killing a Lynchburg teen as a member of the violent street gang MS-13.
Kevin Josue Soto Bonilla, 22, is one of four men facing capital murder charges in the March 2017 death of Raymond Wood. Another defendant, Victor Rodas, was found guilty of first-degree murder last year and sentenced to 55 years in prison.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Wes Nance is seeking the death penalty in Soto Bonilla’s case. Potential jurors have answered questions from the attorneys about the death penalty, the criminal justice process and rights for illegal immigrants, among many others.
Bedford Circuit Court Judge James Updike has erred on the side of caution with potentially biased jurors, approving most requests to dismiss them.
The jury panel must be reduced to 24 people before it’s finally narrowed to 14 jurors who will hear the case. Attorneys said Tuesday they expect the selection process to wrap up today.