Twelve Tarrant County residents were selected Thursday to judge whether or not a Fort Worth man is guilty of murdering a 17-year-old girl nearly 50 years ago.
Jury selection in the trial of Glen McCurley took nearly all day Thursday. At about 4 p.m., the panel was selected who will decide if McCurley is guilty of capital murder. The potential sentence for the 78-year-old is life in prison.
A little after 10 a.m., the crowd of potential jurors filed into a Tarrant County courtroom. Most wore masks. Judge Elizabeth Beach and attorneys sat behind plexiglass due to COVID-19 precautions.
McCurley is accused of kidnapping, raping and strangling Carla Walker in 1974. On Thursday, he sat in the front of the room throughout jury selection. While he previously appeared in court at a June pretrial hearing in a wheelchair and a mask, he had neither on Thursday.
Kim D’Avignon, a Tarrant County prosecutor, walked the jury pool through the trial process and various legal principles, such as burden of proof. She listed at least 12 witnesses who will be called on behalf of the state. Among the witnesses who will testify are Rodney McCoy, Carla’s boyfriend who was in the car when she was abducted; Jim Walker, Carla’s younger brother; Fort Worth detectives who questioned McCurley after his arrest and Fort Worth police who worked the case in 1974.
Attorney Eric Nickols, a defense attorney for McCurley, questioned prospective jurors for about an hour and a half Thursday afternoon. Nickols asked jurors how they felt about an array of legal and ethical principles. He focused on several key elements that connect to the case against McCurley.
For example, Nickols asked the 100 potential jurors how they felt about the use of DNA evidence and police having access to people’s DNA through services like “23 and Me.” McCurley was arrested in September after police used new technology to run DNA found on Carla’s bra through several systems. Detectives sent the DNA to a freely accessible genealogical database known as GEDmatch, the same tool California police used to identify the Golden State Killer. On GEDmatch, Fort Worth police got a hit; The detectives reported that they narrowed the suspects to a family of three brothers with the last name McCurley.
In July, according to an arrest warrant affidavit, police officers collected trash from a bin on the street outside McCurley’s house. DNA from the trash matched the DNA from Walker’s bra on Sept. 4.
Nickols also pushed jurors to divulge how they feel about an accused person not testifying on his own behalf. He also talked to jurors about false confessions, the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and the presumption of innocence.
McCurley, according to Fort Worth police, at first denied having committed any crime during an interview with detectives in September. However, detectives say he confessed about 30 minutes later when they confronted him about the DNA evidence.
In a media interview of McCurley from September, McCurley told KRLD he had seen Carla and her boyfriend in their car on that February night in 1974. He said Rodney and Carla were arguing, and he broke in on her behalf and took her away.
In the interview, McCurley said, “She just gave me a hug. I gave her a kiss. I mistook her for something else. I didn’t mean to do it.”
McCurley entered a not guilty plea during the pretrial hearing. On Friday, the trial is set to begin at 8:30 a.m. in Criminal District Court 1.
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