PAW PAW, Mich. (WOOD) - Once a jury is seated in the double-murder trial of Junior Beebe Jr., they won't hear him testify, his attorney said Tuesday.
David Hunt is representing Beebe, accused of shooting and killing Amy Henslee and Tonya Howarth on January 24, 2011. Generally, Hunt said, he advises his clients not to testify in court.
The jury will, however, hear Beebe's version of what happened in a taped confession recorded by investigators after his arrest.
On the tape, Beebe admits to shooting Howarth, investigators say, but not Henslee.
Beebe claims Howarth shot Henslee in a jealous rage after catching her alone with him inside of a camper.
Beebe told police he then wrestled the gun away from Howarth and shot her twice, after she had threatened to shoot him, too. He then said, in a panic, he buried the women's bodies more than a day later.
Hunt said he won't dispute the confession and said he believes that if the jury accepts it, Beebe will, at most, be convicted of manslaughter. Hunt said he may also be exonerated if the jury is convinced Beebe acted in self-defense.
More than 120 people were brought in for the jury pool, and selection may take some time following the intense media coverage and publicity surrounding the shooting deaths of Amy Henslee and Tonya Howarth.
Henslee was a 30-year-old mother of two, and Howarth, 36, was Beebe's girlfriend.
The judge asked the potential jurors how many of them knew about the case and the vast majority raised their hands.
The judge dismissed jurors who said they hadn't heard much about the case and asked them to return on Wednesday.
Half of the remaining jurors were also sent away and instructed to return later Tuesday.
Beebe, the judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney began interviewing the remaining jurors individually, in order to avoid tainting other jurors when stating what they'd heard about the case.
The process is expected to take two days.
In court Tuesday, Beebe appeared calm. He was clean shaven and wore a dress shirt and slacks. But Hunt says Beebe is extremely shaken up over the situation and was "in shock" for more than a week after his arrest.
Beebe understands the charges against him and the possible consequences, Hunt said.
Van Buren County Prosecutor Juris Kaps says Beebe's version of events is nothing more than a story.
Jury selection for Beebe's trial started Tuesday morning and was expected to wrap up Wednesday.
During individual interviews with the attorneys and the judge, many potential jurors said they'd already made up their mind about the case and believe Beebe is guilty. Those jurors were dismissed from the pool.
Testimony in the case is expected to take three or four days.
James Henslee, Amy's husband, talked about the startup of the trial on his Facebook page: "Thanks to all of you for the never ending support as our families relive this never-ending nightmare!"
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