CROWN POINT | Lawyers have widened a search for an impartial jury to hear evidence against a Gary man accused of killing his wife and two stepchildren five years ago.
Lake Criminal Court Judge Thomas P. Stefaniak ordered his staff to add 150 new names to an already outsized jury pool that now swells to 1,150 county residents.
Stefaniak said he wants ensure Kevin Isom, 46, of Gary, gets a fair and impartial jury that represents the county's diverse demographics.
"This doesn't exclude anyone because of race, gender, creed or national origin," Stefaniak said at a Friday hearing.
Isom is pleading not guilty to charges he murdered his wife, Cassandra, 40, and two stepchildren, Michael Moore, 16, and Ci'Andria Cole, 13, in August 2007 in their apartment in Gary's Miller Beach neighborhood.
The state is seeking his execution because of the crime's severity.
A typical criminal court jury is selected from fewer than 100 randomly selected residents, but the stakes in a death penalty trial are so high, judges widen their jury pools to ensure a fair proceeding that won't be overturned on appeal.
The Isom case has experienced extraordinary delays. His original attorney, Nick Thiros, died nearly two years ago and Lake County's public defender office had to be brought in to relaunch Isom's defense.
The attorneys attempted to begin his trial last February, but were unable to find enough jurors from a pool that started at 600, but dwindled to fewer than a dozen after lawyers excused many for reasons ranging from medical disability to those who have ethical objections to the death penalty.
Stefaniak added the new 150 Friday because 100 from an earlier list of 1,000 people haven't filled out questionnaires about their eligibility and another 50 may have to be excused from jury duty.
His new trial is set to begin Jan. 7, 2013.