Jury Selection Underway In Baby Kate Murder Trial

Five years have gone by, and still no answers about Baby Kate’s disappearance.

Jury selection is now underway in her father’s murder trial.

We spoke to the Lake County prosecutor who says when a case has gained as much attention as the Baby Kate case, the prosecution and the defense will be asking potential jurors plenty of questions to make sure they get the outcome they’re hoping for.

“In a case like the Baby Kate case, I’m not sure you’re going to find anybody who hasn’t heard about the case.”

That’s what Lake County Prosecutor Craig Cooper says will make selecting a jury so difficult as the prosecution and defense try to see if potential jurors have heard anything that could influence the outcome of the trial.

“Each side gets challenges, peremptory challenges for a cause, and so that could be challenge for a cause if you can dive into whether or not that person has been influenced or not, but that’s the whole idea is to determine if the person has been influenced,” explains Cooper.

Once the jury is picked, Cooper says there are several other challenges in the Phillips murder trial, including the five year window of this case.

“You have prior testimony of those witnesses, and if it’s been five years, you want to make sure those stories are consistent. If they’re not consistent, that can give the defense an opportunity to impeach those witnesses of you’re saying one thing now but that’s different from what you said back then. That’s a common defense strategy,” says Cooper.

Physical evidence will also be crucial, and police have to work to make sure nothing was tampered with. That’s something criminal justice professor Dave Greydanus teaches at Ferris State University.

“The physical evidence is extremely important. It’s going to help tell the story of what took place, and for the jury, and help them understand hopefully what took place so maintaining that and the integrity of that evidence is very important,” says Graydanus.

Plenty of people will be watching to see what happens in the Mason County Courthouse in the coming days.

“They’ll present the evidence they have, and the jury will be read the law and the jury instructions for what’s required. You don’t have to have a body, and if they can prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury will reach that verdict and if the reasonable doubt standard cannot be found, then it’ll be a not guilty verdict. So it’ll be interesting, it’s a tough case.”

Jury selection will resume on Tuesday.

Stay with Northern Michigan’s News Leader for continuing live coverage throughout the trial.