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April 24, 2013

Attorneys dismiss possible jurors in Gibson trial

Trial on first of three murder charges set to start in July

NEW ALBANY — William Clyde Gibson III, 55, a New Albany man charged in three unrelated area murders, appeared in a Floyd County court Wednesday.

During the hearing, court officials reviewed about 75 returned juror questionnaires that have been selected for exemption of further consideration for Gibson’s July 15 trial, during which Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson will seek the death penalty.

Nearly 800 questionnaires have been sent out to residents of Dearborn County, located near Cincinnati. About 400 returned questionnaires will be evaluated by attorneys and another 300 or so have yet to be returned.

The trial, for which Gibson is charged in the murder Christine Whitis, 75, a Clarksville resident, will be held in Floyd County, but because the case has received so much media attention, a jury is being pulled from Dearborn County. Whitis was found strangled to death in the garage of Gibson’s New Albany home April 19, 2012.

Those nearly 75 prospective jurors were dismissed from the vast jury pool primarily because they either no longer live in the county or they suffer from health-related issues. A small group was excluded because of their mature age, three were found to be deceased and one is incarcerated. Attorneys will continue to remove prospective jurors until they reach a consensus on a jury of 12, with several alternates, before the start of the trial.

Floyd County Superior Court No. 1 Judge Susan Orth presided over the hearing.

Henderson was accompanied by Floyd County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Steve Owen. Gibson is being represented by lead counsel George Streib Jr. and Andrew Adams and Patrick Biggs, who are serving as second chair. Henderson said after the hearing that he anticipates the case will remain on track and trial will take place on the scheduled July date.

He also said the long process of orchestrating a trial is often tough on the families standing by awaiting justice.

“It is always difficult for the families,” Henderson said. “Not just because, obviously, of the loss, but it is difficult with the delays that sometimes get built into the system. There is not really closure for anyone until this part of it is over with.”

He said two to three weeks time has been allocated for the trial.

“We are still in that process of looking at witnesses and putting together our trial calendar,” Henderson said.

Following the Whitis trial, the court is expected to proceed to the trial of Stephanie Kirk, 35, of Charlestown, who was found buried in Gibson’s backyard in the 800 block of Woodbourne Drive on April 27, 2012. The Kirk trial is also expected to be capital case.

Gibson also faces charges in the death of 45-year-old Karen Hodella, who was found murdered near the Ohio River in January 2003.

Attorneys are expected to meet again for a hearing in Orth’s court May 24 leading to Gibson’s murder trial.


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