By Tom Davidson
Herald Staff Writer
The trial is set to begin today for the man accused of being the gunman in the Dec. 30, 2011, killing of Farrell bar owner William Basilone Jr.
Seven women and five men make up the jury. They, along with four female alternates, will hear the case.
They’ll be charged with an important task, Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher J. St. John told them.
“This is serious,” St. John said. “The reason you’ve been selected is we believe you can do it.”
They’ll decide whether Joshua Stewart, 20, of Farrell, committed the crime, as prosecutors contend, or if he’s an innocent man, as his defense lawyers will argue.
Stewart is charged with first- and second-degree murder and two counts each of robbery and conspiracy. He is represented by public defenders James Goodwin Jr. and Autumn Johnson.
Stewart is alleged to be the man who shot Basilone five times that night.
He is being tried separately from Devine Campbell, 19, who faces the same charges and will be tried later.
Mercer County District Attorney Robert G. Kochems is being assisted by Lauren Hackett in prosecuting the case.
The jury was narrowed from a field of 72 to the 12 main members and four alternates who will step in if for some reason a juror ends up not being able to finish the trial, which will take about a week, St. John said.
Those chosen to serve testified under oath that they knew little about the case from media reports and hadn’t read anything on social media about it.
They also testified they weren’t related to or acquainted with any of the witnesses who will testify during the trial to the extent that it would taint their objectivity.
Jury selection started Monday and wound up at lunchtime Wednesday. Opening statements should begin shortly after 9 a.m. today, after the jury is formally sworn in.
The trial comes about one year and eight months after Basilone was gunned down outside his namesake bar.