BATON ROUGE, La. – Derrick Todd Lee (search) got a life sentence for the murder of Geralyn DeSoto (search). Now the man authorities say is a serial killer faces another trial that could put him on death row.
Jury selection in the Lee's second murder trial was to begin Monday and the presiding judge was to decide if an impartial jury can be seated in an area Lee is accused of terrorizing.
Prosecutors said Lee beat and stabbed 22-year-old Charlotte Murray Pace (search) in a violent struggle at her home. Lee's lawyer wants the trial moved, arguing that finding an impartial jury in Baton Rouge will be impossible.
The judge said he's going to see for himself.
Lee was arrested in May 2003. Authorities said DNA evidence linked him to the murders of seven women between April 1998 and March 2003 and the assault of a nurse who is expected to testify that Lee tried to rape and kill her.
Pace was killed May 31, 2002. Her partially clothed body was found in her roommate's bedroom and she had been slashed, beaten and stabbed 81 times with a flathead screwdriver and a knife. Detectives said her hands were bruised, suggesting she fought her attacker.
Lee, 35, who was sentenced last month to life in prison in the murder of DeSoto, has pleaded not guilty in the Pace case. He could get the death penalty if convicted.
No one is arguing the city wasn't affected by the killings. More than 1,200 men were swabbed for DNA samples, more than 26,000 tips were called in and police set up a roadblock and walked neighborhoods to gather information.
Mike Mitchell, Lee's public defender, told Judge Richard Anderson the near-daily media coverage of the murders and Lee's arrest make it impossible to assemble a fair jury.
"There are full-blown, front-page photos that Derrick Todd Lee is the perpetrator of this crime. There is no way the public could have missed that," Mitchell said in a March hearing.
Prosecutors said a proper jury can be selected in the parish. They pointed to previous high profile cases tried in Baton Rouge whose verdicts were upheld in higher courts.
The state has focused heavily on the similarities of the attacks, including the fact that all the victims were sexually assaulted and several had neck injuries. Defense attorneys, however, have noted the many differences between the killings. Methods included beating, stabbing and strangling. Some of the women were killed at home while others were abducted and dumped elsewhere. The slayings happened at a wide range of times.
Assistant District Attorney John Sinquefield estimated it would take about seven to 10 days to seat a jury. "There may be some hurdles, but we're going to work real hard. We believe we can get a jury that's fair," he said.
The district attorney's office plans to introduce evidence from several crimes in which Lee is accused: five murders, including Pace's killing, and the nurse's attack.
Lee was convicted in the beating and stabbing death of DeSoto in neighboring West Baton Rouge Parish. He is appealing that conviction. Lee also faces a Nov. 3 trial for the nurse's attack, and awaits a trial date in a first-degree murder case in the killing of another woman.