Peyer Jury Is Complete for Retrial : Opening Statements Scheduled Tuesday

Times Staff Writer

A six-man, six-woman jury was seated Friday in the retrial of former California Highway Patrol officer Craig Peyer, who is charged with murder in the killing of a San Diego State University student 17 months ago.

The 12 jurors and four alternates were selected after a rigorous screening during which attorneys in the case attempted to ferret out people who had been exposed to excessive publicity or had formed strong opinions on Peyer's guilt or innocence.

Peyer's second trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday, when both attorneys will deliver opening statements. Superior Court Judge Richard Huffman has predicted that the trial will last about two months.

More Than 260 Quizzed

A 13-year member of the CHP until his firing last May, Peyer is charged with strangling 20-year-old Cara Knott, whose body was found in a dry creek bed beneath an abandoned highway bridge near the Mercy Road exit of Interstate 15. Prosecutors say the Dec. 27, 1986, killing took place after Peyer, 38, pulled Knott's Volkswagen over while in uniform and on routine patrol.

Peyer's first trial ended last February when jurors deadlocked, 7-5 for conviction, after seven days of deliberations. The second trial is being handled by a new prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. Paul Pfingst.

The screening of potential jurors began three weeks ago when more than 260 people were quizzed by Huffman about their ability to serve in the trial. Each member of the initial group of candidates expressed familiarity with the case, indicating the widespread publicity and community interest it has received.

During their questioning of individual jurors, Huffman, Pfingst and defense attorney Robert Grimes attempted first to determine the extent of a candidate's knowledge of the slaying and of the subsequent arrest and trial of Peyer. They also asked candidates whether they had formed opinions about Peyer and about witnesses who testified in his first trial.

Other questions focused on jurors' personal lives and backgrounds and were aimed at uncovering any potential bias a panel member might have against or in favor of the defendant. Several candidates were dismissed by Huffman after they declared that they were convinced Peyer had killed Knott.

Both Sides Confident

Although each attorney in the case was allowed to use 20 challenges to exclude candidates from the jury, neither side needed that many to seat a jury to its liking. The defense used 17 challenges, the prosecution used 19.

Both sides expressed confidence Friday that they had selected a fair, representative group of jurors for the second trial.

"To me, they look like a group of reasonable people," Grimes said. "I feel comfortable that we have a good jury."

Said Pfingst: "They're fine. That's why we picked them."

The 12 jurors picked to hear the case are Herbert L. Logan, Ramon E. Gomez, Angela Michaels, Virde R. Barton, Barbara L. Smith, Frank W. Smith, Mark P. Kirkendall, Edda Bradstreet, Helen A. LeStrange, Lawrence J. Parrott, Victoria L. Culver and Ann N. Steward.

The four alternates are Maynard Bjorstrom, Raymond Thomas, Karen Moffitt and Steven Woodland.

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