A long morning of interviewing potential jurors resulted in six individuals being seated on an eventual 16-member panel that will decide the verdict in the case of Nathaniel Fujita, the Wayland High School graduate accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend and classmate Lauren Astley in 2011.
Fujita has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder, two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and assault-and-battery related to the death of 18-year-old Astley, whose body was found in a Wayland marsh on July 4, 2011.
Three men and three women had been chosen by early afternoon Monday from a pool of about 92 potential jurors that filed into Middlesex Superior Court Judge Peter Lauriat’s courtroom Monday morning.
Potential jurors were introduced to the lawyers for Fujita and the prosecutors for the Commonwealth, as well as to the defendant, who sighed audibly and wiped his eyes as he looked out over the courtroom full of potential jurors, his parents, and Malcolm Astley, the father of Lauren Astley.
Among the questions asked of potential jurors were several related to Fujita’s defense team “likely raising” the question of criminal responsibility, otherwise known as the insanity defense.
Prior to the start of jury selection, Fujita’s lawyer, William Sullivan, went on the record to state his objection to a question asking potential jurors whether they believe a person can have a mental disability but still be able to form the intent necessary to commit a crime and would therefore be guilty of that crime.
Throughout a morning of potential juror interviews, many were excused by the judge due to concerns about the length of the trial, which Lauriat estimated to be 15 days. At least one potential juror, a woman, was excused after explaining she had a personal friend who was “very close” to Malcolm Astley, Lauren Astley’s father.
The jurors who were been seated Monday agreed to avoid Facebook, Twitter and other social media for the duration of their time on the jury. The question came up prior to interviewing this morning when Sullivan argued that even jurors who don’t intend to view information about the case, could be exposed to it due to the automatic update nature of social media.
Other questions posed to potential jurors addressed their feelings about race, given that Fujita is Japanese-American and Astley is Caucasian, as well as their ability to remain impartial if presented with graphic images of the victim or if the topic of Fujita and Astley having had a dating relationship is raised.
The jurors that so far have been selected are all Caucasian and appear to range in age from mid-20s through middle-age.
An additional 25 potential jurors were to be interviewed after a recess for lunch Monday.