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Detroit, Grosse Pointe Park

Jury selection underway in Gianino murder trial

March 10, 2014

Jury selection began March 10 in the murder trial for Sabrina Gianino, the 35-year-old Grosse Pointe Park woman strangled the night of May 15, 2013, in the flat she and her boyfriend shared in the 1300 block of Wayburn.

It was expected to continue March 11 in 3rd Circuit Court Judge Ulysses Boykin’s courtroom as prosecutors and defense attorneys reviewed and rejected potential candidates for the panel that will decide the guilt or innocence of Gianino’s former neighbor, Myron Tyronne Williams, 42, who is facing first-degree murder, felony murder and unarmed robbery charges in the case. Williams has denied any involvement in Gianino’s slaying; prosecutors allege that he killed her to take several small items — including a cellphone, iPod, older model laptop computer and a store gift card — to trade for crack cocaine.

Before jury selection got underway, Williams’ court-appointed attorney, Charles Longstreet II, unsuccessfully tried to have letters between Williams and his wife suppressed, arguing that these would fall under spousal privilege as private conversations between the couple. However, Boykin said he received Williams’ motion to suppress the letters past the deadline he set for motions, and he agreed with prosecutors that the evidence should be allowed. Molly Kettler, an assistant prosecuting attorney with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, said they introduced these letters during a preliminary exam last year, and she argued that Williams’ wife “has given no indication she wishes to invoke spousal privilege, so that evidence is admissible.”

Kettler also argued that even without the permission of Williams’ wife, the letters “could be admitted because they’re admissions of the defendant.” A spouse can’t be compelled to testify against his or her significant other, but a spouse who does so voluntarily can’t be prevented from testifying, Kettler said.

Boykin agreed.

“It appears that privilege belongs to the testifying spouse, and if she waives that … she can testify,” he said.

Boykin also denied Longstreet’s request for the defense to conduct its own voir dire of the jury.

“In this particular case, there is a specialized defense we intend to introduce,” said Longstreet, telling the court he didn’t want to reveal too much to tip off prosecutors to that strategy.

Boykin said questions for voir dire needed to be filed no later than one week before the trial to give both legal teams a chance to review them.

“I’m not going to let you ask any questions I don’t know … ahead of time,” Boykin told him. “This is not a poker game.”

Kettler shared with the court a list of more than two dozen witnesses prosecutors expect to call during the trial, including law enforcement officials, friends and relatives of the victim, and people close to the defendant. Longstreet didn’t offer a separate list of witnesses, but is expected to closely question those brought forth by prosecutors.

At press time, attorneys said they expected the trial to last about two to three weeks.

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