Opening statements to begin in death penalty case

Victor Gantt
Victor Gantt

HAMILTON, OH (FOX19) - Opening statements are expected to get underway in Butler County in the trial of a man charged with the murder of a 75-year old Middletown  man.

The trial began Tuesday, as a jury was selected.

Police say 25-year old Victor Gantt killed Leroy Jones on May 2, 2011 by hitting him in the head with an ax.

Police say the crime was a random act of violence.

"It's a compelling case because we are talking about an elderly man, they are a vulnerable part of society," said Lisa Wells, legal analyst. "Everyone has had a grandparent at some point and the idea that this can happen in what's considered a safe neighborhood, not gang related, not drug related, that's very scary."

Wells says the decision to prosecute a case for the death penalty is not easily made and the jury is carefully selected.

"The juror member before they can be seated on the jury has to commit to the fact that they'll consider mitigation evidence before determining a death sentence," said Wells.

Wells has co-defended in a death penalty case in Kentucky. She says death penalty cases aren't only emotionally challenging but also financially draining. She says to prosecute, convict and go through any appeals process it cost the state $1 million.

"Until you are one of those 12 people that is actually going to have to sign your name to that and say this person should be put to death for their crime, that is very real and something that will stick with them for the rest of their lives," said Wells.

The Gantt murder trial is the second capital punishment case in Butler County in less than one year.

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