By Tom Davidson
Herald Staff Writer
The jurors were picked from a pool of 88 Mercer Countians tapped to serve in the case and they passed muster after being grilled with a litany of scripted questions from prosecutors and the defense lawyers representing Devine Campbell, 19, formerly of Farrell.
Campbell faces charges of second-degree murder and two counts each of robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery.
He is represented by Mercer lawyer J. Jarrett K. Whalen, who is assisted by Dustin Cole in the defense.
The trial will close the book on what happened that night almost two years ago when Basilone was shot outside his bar near an alley on Roemer Boulevard.
In September, another jury convicted Joshua Stewart, 20, of shooting Basilone five times in a botched robbery.
Stewart was sentenced to life in prison without parole and has also been indicted by a federal grand jury with crimes related to a spree of robberies the pair are accused in that happened in the waning weeks of 2011.
The crimes are being prosecuted separately in the court system.
Authorities allege Campbell was with Stewart that night, and along with another uncharged co-conspirator, Tylor Kalenic, planned to rob Basilone’s that night.
Things didn’t go as planned and Stewart ended up shooting Basilone while Campbell was nearby, authorities allege. Kalenic has been given immunity for his testimony in the case.
Kalenic’s story is that he got cold feet and left Stewart and Campbell to do the deed, which ended in Basilone’s slaying.
Prosecutors also have surveillance video footage from outside the bar that places men that match their descriptions on Roemer Boulevard throughout that evening.
Two witnesses also may testify about what they saw that night and a jailhouse informant claims Stewart confessed his part in the crimes while he was in Mercer County Jail.
Stewart offered no defense in his trial.
The lawyers involved in the case have been asked by Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher J. St. John to refrain from discussing the case with the media, but a 20-point motion filed by Whalen to ask for a continuance in the trial that was denied by the judge offers a glimpse at the stratagems the defense plans.
In the motion, Whalen contends the court-appointed investigator assigned to him to defend Campbell hasn’t done his job properly to prepare the defense to call eight potential witnesses.
It goes on to admit that Cole lacks the experience necessary to effectively defend Campbell.
“Undersigned counsel is also placed at a disadvantage as he cannot prepare and present a cohesive defense, including but not limited to preparation of an effective opening statement and preparation of witnesses without knowing what will be the testimony of other defense witnesses,” Whalen wrote in the motion, which was denied by St. John.
Jury selection will continue today for the two regular and two alternate open seats on the panel.
Jurors were told to expect the trial to last at least until next Wednesday by St. John.
Should the jury be impaneled today, opening arguments would take place Friday.
If convicted, Campbell faces a mandatory minimum of 30 years to life in prison with the possibility of parole on the murder charge.