TAMPA — A jury of eight women and six men was chosen tonight to decide the case against one of two suspects charged with murder in the 2011 shooting deaths of two South Tampa siblings.
The jury was selected about 7:15 p.m. for the trial of Charlie Waits after 100 people were questioned through the day Monday by Circuit Judge Emmett Lamar Battles and lawyers for the prosecution and defense.
Opening statements are set for Tuesday morning.
Waits is charged along with Tavari Grant in the slayings of Kiara Brito, 16, and her brother, Jeremi Brito, 13, on June 5, 2011, in their home at 3021 W. Van Buren Drive.
Authorities say the suspects killed the teens in a home invasion robbery over drugs. Kiara, who attended Robinson High School, kept expensive, hydroponically grown marijuana in her dresser drawer and sold enough at one point to stash $1,300 cash in her bedroom, according to police reports.
Waits’ trial is expected to last up to two weeks; Grant faces a separate trial later this month.
Among the jurors who were excused, dozens said they had hardships that would prevent them from serving for two weeks; others had read or heard about the case and said they had strong opinions about the guilt or innocence of the defendant and could not be fair.
Several prospective jurors had experience as crime victims, including a woman whose first husband was murdered and a man who said he had been a victim of extortion and was beaten with a pipe.
Others said they couldn’t be fair because the case involves violence directed at children.
“I’d be very tempted to make an emotional-based decision,” one prospective juror said.