WEST CHESTER, Pa. (AP) - Lawyers began the process of picking a jury Thursday in the capital murder trial of an anti-government sharpshooter charged with killing a Pennsylvania State Police trooper and critically wounding another in a 2014 ambush at their barracks.
Eric Frein, 33, could face a death sentence if he's convicted in the attack in northeastern Pennsylvania that killed Cpl. Bryon Dickson II and injured Trooper Alex Douglass. He led police on a 48-day manhunt in the Pocono Mountains before his capture by U.S. marshals.
Frein, wearing a dark suit and tie, chatted quietly with his lawyers and occasionally glanced at his parents, Michael and Deborah Frein, who sat in the gallery.
The defendant is "invested in this trial, obviously," his lawyer, Michael Weinstein, said outside court. Asked how Frein's parents were feeling, Weinstein replied: "They're the parents. How would you feel? They're nervous."
The first round of more than 100 potential jurors arrived for jury selection at the courthouse in Chester County, outside Philadelphia, and answered questions from the judge about their knowledge of the case and their views on the death penalty.
More than two-thirds of the potential jurors said they had heard about the case, while more than a third said they would be unable to impose the death penalty on moral or religious grounds.
The prosecution and defense agreed to pick an outside jury because of blanket news coverage of the Sept. 12, 2014, sniper attack in Pike County and its prolonged aftermath. The courthouse where the jury's being picked is about 150 miles away from the shooting scene at the Blooming Grove barracks.
Weinstein said he's confident his client can get a fair trial despite the overwhelming publicity. He said he's looking for jurors who are "open minded, willing to listen to all of the evidence, willing to follow the law. That's the optimal juror."
About 1,200 people in all received jury summons for the trial. After the jury pool is whittled down, potential jurors will be questioned individually.
A defense lawyer who has tried death penalty cases said Frein's lawyers have a daunting task ahead.
The ambush "was planned. It was thought out," said Joseph D'Andrea, who is not associated with the case. The gunman, he said, "laid in wait to randomly (shoot) two troopers."
Prosecutors say Frein spoke of wanting to start a revolution in a letter to his parents and describe Dickson's slaying as an "assassination." Frein allegedly told authorities he wanted to "wake people up" and "make a change (in government)."
Defense lawyers are trying to get Frein's videotaped confession suppressed, arguing he invoked his right to remain silent and wasn't told by investigators that his family had hired a lawyer.
Authorities have said they have a wealth of physical evidence tying Frein to the crime, including spent shell casings in his sport utility vehicle that matched those found at the crime scene.
Police also recovered a journal allegedly written by Frein in which the gunman describes how he opened fire on two state troopers -- watching one of his victims fall "still and quiet" -- and then made his escape.
Frein, who has pleaded not guilty, will be held in Chester County for the duration of jury selection. Opening statements are scheduled for early April. The trial is expected to last four or five weeks.