A jury of 12 members and two alternates was seated Monday in the murder trial of Todd M. Mullis in Dubuque.
Mullis, 43, of Earlville, is accused of killing his wife, Amy L. Mullis, 39. Authorities said he fatally stabbed her with a corn rake on their farm on Nov. 10, staging the incident to look like an accident and then asking his son to check on his mother.
Iowa District Court Judge Thomas Bitter previously granted a motion to move the proceedings from Delaware County to Dubuque because of pretrial publicity.
The seven men and seven women of the juror panel will return to court at 9 a.m. today, with the opening statements expected to follow soon after.
“Opening statement is each party’s opportunity to stand up in front of you and describe what they think the evidence is going to show,” Bitter told jurors Monday as he previewed what the coming days would bring. “It’s not their time to argue the merits of their case.”
The state is represented by Delaware County’s county attorney, John Bernau, and Iowa Assistant Attorney General Maureen Hughes.
Mullis is represented by attorneys Gerald Feuerhelm and Robert Sabers.
Thirty-six prospective jurors were pulled from a pool of 80 people who packed the Dubuque County Courthouse’s north courtroom Monday morning. All of the courtroom’s seats were filled, and people stood against three of four walls.
The slow, deliberate process of jury selection began at 10 a.m., with individual interviews in the judge’s chambers with prospective panelists who admitted to having heard of the case against Mullis.
None of the prospective jurors were struck for cause. Instead, the process concluded at about 3:30 p.m. with prosecutors and defense attorneys making 11 mandatory strikes each to reduce the number of jurors to 14.
Hughes and Feuerhelm took about an hour each to winnow the 36 prospective jurors to the seated panel, asking about their views on law enforcement, truth-telling and perception of facts.
“Have you ever been putting together a puzzle and toward the end you realized there were one or two pieces missing? Could you still tell what the puzzle showed?” Hughes asked jurors.
Feuerhelm asked potential jurors if they had heard the phrase, “Oh, they are going to kill me,” and if they understood the phrase to be a figure of speech.
The trial has garnered national attention, with Court TV coming to Dubuque to air the proceedings on its network.