Death penalty trial set to open Monday

2013-01-06T00:00:00Z 2013-01-07T00:11:08Z Death penalty trial set to open MondaySusan Brown susan.brown@nwi.com, (219) 662-5325 nwitimes.com
January 06, 2013 12:00 am  • 

CROWN POINT | More than five years after being charged with the murder of his family, the trial of a Gary man facing the death penalty is expected to open Monday.

And on the cusp of trial, Lake Criminal Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak recently approved a protective order sought by prosecutors and the defense.

Filed Dec. 27, the joint motion sought that anyone connected with the murder and the trial, including counsel, law enforcement officials, court personnel and the coroner be prohibited from disseminating information or releasing any statements outside the courtroom through public communication.

Kevin Isom, who turned 47 on Friday, is accused of fatally shooting his wife, Cassandra, 40, and two stepchildren -- Michael Moore 16, and Ci'Andria Cole, 13 -- on Aug. 6, 2007, in the family's Miller Beach apartment.

The triple homicide was confirmed when Gary police raided the apartment about 2 a.m. after a standoff of several hours. A neighbor had alerted police to the sound of gunshots about 10:30 p.m.

Isom is also charged with the attempted murder of four police officers.

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter amended the charges against Isom to include the death penalty in January 2008.

Court documents state Isom was found on the floor of a bedroom with a revolver in his waistband and his wife and stepchildren shot dead.

Isom told police his wife, upset about his unemployment, had mentioned leaving him a few days before the shootings, court records state.

The trial has experienced numerous delays, including the determination of Isom's competency to stand trial, the death of a lead attorney in his privately hired defense team, the later appointment of two public defenders and the failure in March to seat a jury.

Stefaniak later doubled the number of prospective jurors to 1,150 from which 12 jurors and five alternates ultimately were culled.

Jurors have been scrutinized individually by Stefaniak, the state and the defense teams to determine their suitability to sit on a capital case.

If convicted, Isom's fate is solely in the hands of the jury, who may sentence him to death, life without parole or a specific number of years in prison.

During jury selection, defense attorney Herbert Shaps conceded to jurors many of the questions put to them were "very personal" but meant only to "get to the bottom line" of whether they should be selected.

"Being fair and impartial is important in all cases, but especially in a capital case," Shaps said.

"Many people say the most important function of the defense attorney is the selection of the jury," he told jurors.

All 12 jurors and five alternates will be sequestered throughout the trial, which is estimated to last three to five weeks.

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