NORMAN — The selection of a jury for a first-degree murder trial will continue at 9 a.m. today in District Judge Tracy Schumacher’s courtroom.
The trial is for Russell Lee Blackwood, 41, of Purcell, who was charged with murder in 2012 conjointly with Richard Dean Lansdale, 38, also of Purcell. The two are accused of shooting Gary Norton Sr. to death in his Lexington home in a drive-by shooting. Norton, 55, died of a gunshot wound to the head.
Four out of about 50 of the individuals summoned were excused for a variety of reasons Wednesday throughout the proceedings of the selection process.
One potential juror from Lexington, where the alleged murder occurred, said he had heard rumors, or “hearsay,” about what had happened.
He said he also knew some of the people involved, which might affect the way he listened to their testimonies, making it improbable for him to be an impartial juror.
A potential female juror was excused because she knew one of the state’s witnesses that could be called in to testify.
Another individual summoned was excused because one of her family members had been a homicide victim in Norman earlier this year. Since it was still a fresh death in her family, she said she was still dealing with the trauma of the incident and if this murder trial became too graphic, it could impact her.
Judge Schumacher said she expects evidence will begin to be presented this afternoon.
While only 36 of the individuals summoned were questioned Wednesday, others sat listening in case someone in the group of 36 is excused later. The summoned individuals will continue sitting in on the proceedings until 12 jury members and six alternates are chosen.
Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Austin, lead prosecuting attorney for the case, led questioning Wednesday afternoon after Judge Schumacher read over some of the questions potential jurors would be asked during the selection process.
Questioning will continue today with Charles Douglas, the lead defense attorney representing Blackwood.
Background information: The drive-by shooting allegedly occurred early Easter Sunday morning in 2012.
Blackwood allegedly threatened to kill Norton’s son several times prior to the shooting, according to an affidavit filed with the charges.
A woman told law enforcement she was with Blackwood and Lansdale during the drive-by shooting and could feel spent casings hitting her back when shots were fired, the affidavit said.
The witness also reported that the three later drove to Purcell Lake to clean out the car and get rid of the spent casings and other evidence, records show. Investigators later recovered some of that evidence from the lake, the affidavit said.
Lansdale is scheduled to stand trial next week, according to court records. When Lansdale was interviewed by investigators, he admitted to the drive-by shooting, and his story matched the female witness’ account of the incident, records show.
Both Blackwood and Lansdale also had enhancement pages filed with their first-degree murder charge. Lansdale had previously been convicted of or pled guilty to violent offenses including two assault and battery charges.
None of the charges Blackwood was previously convicted of or pled guilty to were violent.