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Staff photo by Don Himsel

Christopher Gribble enters the courtroom for a hearing Monday, Jan. 10, 2011.
Monday, February 28, 2011

Weather delays selection of Gribble jury

UPDATE: Monday morning’s nasty weather and resulting traffic tie-ups has delayed the start of jury selection. Officials have postponed the start by at least an hour, to give people time to get to the courthouse.

NASHUA – About 140 people will appear at Hillsborough County Superior Court today as potential jurors for Christopher Gribble’s insanity trial in the 2009 Mont Vernon home invasion and murder, and another 130 will show up Tuesday .

Gribble, 21, of Brookline, has admitted his role in the attack on Kimberly Cates and her then-11-year-old daughter, Jaimie, on Oct. 4, 2009, but pleaded innocent by reason of insanity.

Gribble faces life in prison without parole if he is convicted of Cates’ murder and found sane.

If the jury acquits Gribble and declares him not guilty by reason of insanity, he would then be committed to the secure psychiatric unit of the State Prison, where he would undergo review hearings every five years. He would not be released until a judge declares him no longer dangerous.

He is also charged with attempted murder, conspiracy to murder and burglary, and witness tampering.

The jury selection process for the trial is expected to last all week, but if 16 jurors, including four alternates, have not been seated by Friday it will continue the next week starting March 7, according to court spokesperson Laura Kiernan.

The roughly 270 people scheduled to show up Monday and Tuesday have been called to the court to go through an initial screening process. Afterward, individual appointments with the prosecution and defense attorneys and Judge Gillian Abramson will take place, until all 16 jurors have been seated.

Jury selection for Steven Spader’s first-degree murder trial in this case ended after four days of individual appointments with the judge and attorneys. Kiernan said the proceedings are likely to follow in comparable fashion for Gribble’s trial.

“It’s a very similar number to the amount they called for Spader,” she said.

Kiernan said the court sent out questionnaires to more than 1,000 potential jurors. The men and women showing up this week were selected from the group that responded.

The potential jurors will first assemble in the courtroom and listen to Abramson’s instructions, which can include various questions about their knowledge of the attorneys and witnesses or reasons why they don’t believe they should sit on the case.

Depending on their answers to those questions, the potential jurors will either be excused and asked to leave or they will make an appointment with the court clerk to return later in the week.

During the individual appointments, potential jurors will sit in the witness box and answer questions from the prosecution and defense attorneys. Either side can use up to 15 challenges to dismiss a juror for any particular reason, and Abramson can also excuse jurors based on her judgment.

Gribble’s trial is scheduled to begin next Wednesday, March 9, but the date is tentative. Kiernan said it was “unlikely” for the trial to start any earlier than March 9.

Spader’s trial in October began with a jury view, where the group was taken to the Cateses’ home at 4 Trow Road in Mont Vernon to look at the scene. Kiernan said she did not know if Gribble’s trial would begin the same way.

The court hopes to have testimony and evidence completed by March 23, Kiernan said, followed by the jury’s deliberation.

The defense will present their arguments first, seeking to prove that Gribble’s actions were a result of insanity. This differs from most criminal trials, including Spader’s, in which the prosecution argues first.

Cameron Kittle can be reached at 594-6523 or