For the second time in six months, a Spokane jury will stare long and hard at the possibility of sending a man to death as punishment for a double murder.
A jury of nine women and three men will hear opening arguments Wednesday in the murder trial of Dwayne Woods, 27.
Woods faces the death penalty if he is convicted of the aggravated murders of Jade Moore, 18, and Telisha Shaver, 22.
The two women were found stabbed, beaten and dying inside a Spokane Valley trailer on April 27, 1996.
Woods, who denies being there that day, also is charged with the attempted murder of Telisha Shaver’s sister, Venus Shaver, 20.
Earlier this year, a jury failed to reach a verdict in the double-murder trial of Joseph Andrews, accused of killing two Spokane residents with six gunshots to the back of their heads in 1994.
The second Andrews trial, which began May 21, is expected to end this week. This time, prosecutors dropped the death penalty option against Andrews, hoping that would remove the heavy life-or-death burden and give them a higher chance of conviction.
The burden jurors are carrying in the Woods case will grow heavier in the next two weeks - the expected length of the trial’s first phase.
Just as in Timothy McVeigh’s trial in the Oklahoma City bombing, this jury won’t examine the death penalty option unless it first convicts Woods of both murders.
Much more than Andrews’ trial, the Woods case has attracted broad community attention.
Instead of victims with shady connections to illegal drugs and street crime, the two dead Valley women were vibrant, talented people with bright futures.
If Woods is convicted, prosecutors will argue that the use of a baseball bat made the murders especially brutal.
Woods’ attorneys are Spokane County public defenders Jim Sheehan and Richard Fasy. Neither has ever taken a possible death penalty case to trial.
“I’m not sure you ever feel prepared going into a trial of this kind,” Sheehan said.
Jurors will be confronted with graphic photos of the crime scene, DNA evidence that may or may not tie Woods to the crimes and statements by two of the women victims.
Before Jade Moore died at a Spokane hospital the night of the attack, police interviewed her and, they say, were told that a black man named Dwayne had beaten her.
Also expected to testify is Venus Shaver - who recovered from her beating and reportedly dated Woods before the attacks.
The 12 jurors picked for the trial include one pregnant woman and another woman who said her cousin was raped and murdered last summer in Washington, D.C.
Prosecutors Jack Driscoll and Jim Sweetser debated excluding the pregnant woman. Sheehan and Fasy considered excluding the woman whose relative had been murdered.
But both jurors ended up being selected largely because each made it clear to attorneys that she could listen to evidence in the case without bias.
None of the 99 people who were called for jury duty in the Woods trial is black. Despite efforts by county officials three years ago to reach more members of minorities for jury service, the efforts have been unsuccessful, said Fasy.
“I know we have people (on the jury) who are fair and impartial,” Fasy added.
“But the only people in that courtroom who are black will be Dwayne, his mother and his sister.
“For him, I’d think that’s scary. It would tend to make anyone feel isolated.”