Can Elizabeth Johnson get a fair trial?Posted: Updated:
PHOENIX -- Elizabeth Johnson could not hold back tears during opening arguments for her trial Thursday.
Johnson is accused of kidnapping, custodial interference and conspiracy to commit custodial interference surrounding the disappearance of her then 8-month old son Gabriel, who was last seen in San Antonio in December of 2009.
Johnson, who was involved in a bitter custody dispute with Gabriel’s father, Logan MCQueary, took the baby to Texas in 2009 against court orders. McQueary wanted full custody, and Johnson vowed never to let him keep their baby.
In a taped phonetical, Johnson told McQueary that she killed Gabriel and put his body in a dumpster. She later changed her story, saying she gave the baby away to an anonymous couple in a San Antonio park.
During the last three years, the dramatic case has played out on television and in newspapers across the country.
“I think the courts here do a really good job in protecting people to make sure they get a fair trial, but it’s tough. With the outside influences now a-days you never know what’s going to sway a jury,” said Phoenix attorney Brent Kleinman.
Kleinman says anyone who’s lived in Phoenix has heard about Johnson’s case, and probably formed opinions about her, including members of the jury.
“Jurors are the same as everybody else in seeing all this, unless they’ve been sequestered. Once they’ve formed their opinions, you need to protect that from influencing their decision,” he said.
Jurors are given specific instructions to prevent them from doing research or reading news on the case.
“The only problem is enforcing that,” said Kleinman, “Everyone now has an I-phone, or a Blackberry.”
Johnson’s trial resumes Monday.