Opening statements in Luyster trial expected Wednesday

Jury of 12, three alternates impaneled in triple aggravated murder case

By Jessica Prokop, Columbian Courts Reporter

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Prosecutors and Brent Luyster’s defense team are expected to deliver opening statements Wednesday morning in his triple aggravated murder trial in Clark County Superior Court.

The court impaneled a jury of 12 and three alternates late Tuesday afternoon following two days of jury selection. The 15 jurors were selected out of 92 who were called in to potentially serve.

Judge Robert Lewis and the attorneys spent the morning individually questioning jurors — a process also known as voir dire — based on the answers they gave on their written jury questionnaire.

Approximately 13 jurors were excused for various reasons during the questioning — some said they could not be impartial based on the nature of the case or that they previously heard about it and already formed an opinion.

Luyster is charged with three counts of aggravated first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder and first- and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm. He’s potentially facing a life sentence.

The charges stem from the July 15, 2016, shooting deaths of Joseph Mark Lamar, 38; Lamar’s partner, Janell Renee Knight, 43; and Zachary David Thompson, 36, at Lamar’s home southeast of Woodland. Luyster is also accused of wounding Thompson’s partner, Breanne L.A. Leigh, then 32, who suffered a gunshot wound to the left side of her face.

By Tuesday afternoon, 61 potential jurors remained for the group portion of voir dire, which took a couple of hours.

The prosecution asked that the judge select four alternates for the jury, based on the length of the trial. However, because of the tight configuration of the courtroom, Lewis said he would allow three alternates.

The jury was sworn in soon after 5 p.m. and heard preliminary instructions.

Before opening statements, the court will address a few last-minute motions from the prosecution and defense.