CROWN POINT | The first five days of jury selection in the county's only death penalty case concluded Friday with seven jurors selected.
Kevin Isom, 46, of Gary, stands accused of murdering his wife and two stepchildren and attempting to murder four responding police officers during a standoff in August 2007.
The first round of jury selection in March ended with Lake Criminal Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr. declaring a mistrial when the jury pool was depleted after naming only nine jurors.
The failure prompted Stefaniak to double the jury pool, with some 450 of 1,150 jurors remaining to be individually interviewed for their ability to serve on the jury.
Jury selection was expected to continue Saturday, resuming Monday until 12 jurors and five alternates are selected.
Isom's trial is set to open Jan. 7. Should Isom be convicted, the trial will enter a second phase for jurors to determine a penalty of death, life without the possibility of parole or a specific number of years to be imposed by Stefaniak.
According to the Indiana Public Defender Council, Isom's is among four death penalty trials currently active in the state
The determination to seek the death penalty is at the discretion of the prosecuting attorney of each county, based on prosecutors alleging the existence of at least one of 16 "aggravating circumstances" as identified by state law.
Jurors selected to serve on death penalty cases must be found to be qualified to hear evidence of the alleged aggravating circumstances and also that of any mitigating circumstances during the penalty phase.
Mitigating circumstances may lead jurors to recommend a lesser sentence.
Should Isom be convicted and sentenced to death, he will join 14 death row inmates in the state prison system, according to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center.
However, of 93 individuals sentenced to death since 1977, when the state resumed imposing the death penalty, only 20 have been executed.
The number of death penalty cases has been dwindling since 2007, with prosecutors filing only eight capital cases, or less than two per year in Indiana.
And more than three times as many individuals have had their death sentences vacated as have been executed after exhausting their appeals, according to the public defender council.