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Guzek Death-Penalty Jury Selection Crams Courthouse


The Deschutes County Courthouse was all but closed down Wednesday as the preliminary jury selection began for Randy Lee Guzek’s fourth death penalty sentencing case.

Only one courtroom saw cases Wednesday – the others were filled with prospective jurors filling out a 26-page questionnaire designed to narrow a pool of roughly 800 jurors down to 50. Those people will be interviewed individually by Guzek’s attorneys and prosecutors.

“I can’t remember this many people ever coming through a courthouse to get the number that we need,” said Deschutes County Trial Court Administrator Ernie Mazorol.

Initially, 2,000 prospective jurors were called for the case, but Mazorol later said they likely could get enough candidates from Wednesday’s pool.

Guzek’s fourth sentencing trial is set to begin later this month. He has already been sentenced to die three times for the brutal 1987 murders of Rod and Lois Houser, but each time the courts overturned those decisions during the appeal process.

The U.S. Supreme Court, however, ruled that Guzek would face a jury again.

Finding a qualified pool of jurors is crucial, Mazorol said.

“Death penalty cases are the maximum type of penalty, so (you)have people who have feelings about that and you have to be careful to be sure to get a good solid pool that can be objective,” he said.

Thelengthy survey prospective jurors were asked to take today took them about an hour and a half to complete. It included basic questions about employment history, education and whether they use the Internet.

But it also contains some other interesting questions, such as:

“What three people do you admire and why?”

“Have you ever fired a gun?

“What kind of bumper stickers are on your car?”

“Have you ever seen a dead body?”

The large number of prospective jurors was summoned because it’s often difficult to find people who can take time off work for a lengthy trial like this. Guzek’s trial could last more than a month.

Also, many of Wednesday’s prospects were sent home shortly after arriving – because they were convicted felons, nursing mothers or over 70 years old.

The jury pool is made up of more than 60,000 registered voters and drivers license holders.

The state has spent more than $2 million on Guzek’s proceedings to this date.

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