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Local News in Brief : El Toro : Jury Screening Begins for Marine’s Murder Trial

Defense lawyers read from pages of questions Monday as they began screening possible jurors for the military murder trial of Marine Sgt. Joseph L. Thomas, who is accused of beating his wife to death with a tire iron.

Thomas, 28, was charged April 5 with the murder of Melinda Thomas, 24, whose body was found in a burning vehicle in Riverside County. The autopsy showed that she was four months’ pregnant when she was found last December. According to defense attorney Maj. Mark Stevens, Thomas has pleaded innocent to a charge of premeditated murder, an offense that could result in the death penalty.

Eight officers and four enlisted men appeared at the general court-martial at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station on Monday as likely jurors who will hear an anticipated five weeks of testimony.

Defense attorney Maj. Renee Renner asked prospective jurors between 100 and 125 questions. The inquiries probed the prospective jurors’ views on the death penalty and whether they could vote Thomas not guilty if it could be shown that the slaying was unintentional and caused by a sudden provocation that would cause “a reasonable man to fight.”

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