Jurors are set to hear opening arguments on Monday in the trial against Dale Hausner, accused of being one of two Serial Shooters that roamed the Valley for more than a year, killing eight people and wounding at least 17 others.
It took lawyers in the case more than a month to whittle 600 potential jurors down to a pool of 12 jurors and eight alternates.
Now, the 20 people will get to hear months of testimony as authorities try to reconstruct the 35 random shootings they say took place between 2005 and 2006.
Police and prosecutors eventually linked all the shootings to Hausner, 35, of Mesa.
Prosecutors plan to argue that Hausner, sometimes alone and sometimes with his friend Samuel Dieteman, cruised the Valley in a car, looking for easy targets.
At the peak of the killings, which were originally thought to be the work of just one shooter, residents throughout the Valley took extra precautions when having to go outside their homes.
Eventually, in August 2006, police raided the Mesa home where Hausner and Dieteman were living and arrested them both on suspicion of the killing spree.
Former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley said it sounds like the case against Hausner is strong, though it is “not at all” a lock.
In fact, he said, with a case this long, there is a risk that eight alternate jurors may not be enough. “It’s not unusual to lose individuals quite regularly,” he said.
If too many of the 20 jurors fall off along the way, the trial could have to start all over again with an entirely new pool, he said.
Still, authorities appear to have mounds of evidence against Hausner.
For one, Dieteman, accused of being an accomplice in some of the shootings, has already pleaded guilty to two murders and agreed to testify against his former friend.
However, the 32-year-old will probably be a less-than-credible witness, Romley said.
Because he has already admitted to two homicides, it will probably be easier for defense attorney Kenneth Everett to pick apart his testimony.
But Romley, who left office before the killings began, also said the lead prosecutor, Vince Imbordino, is “clearly competent” and skilled at handling complex cases.
On top of it, prosecutors also have hours of secretly-recorded conversations between the two men, in which they reportedly talked about how high the body count would go.
The length of the trial will probably prove to be one of the biggest factors here, Romley said.
The trial is scheduled to be a marathon. Winter holiday breaks have already been arranged and Hausner’s attorney has warned the trial could last until next Easter.
During that time, attorneys could get sick, witnesses could disappear or jurors could fall off the case somehow, he said.
“With long trials, you don’t know what could happen,” Romley said.