Mock jury selection finishes in LaFuria case - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Hearings underway in LaFuria case

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LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -

It's been five years since Dr. Peter LaFuria was arrested for alleged crimes against his patients.

The defense doesn't think LaFuria can get a fair trial in Calcasieu Parish -- so, a mock jury selection was held to help find out.

Defense Attorney Glen Vamvoras asked jurors how many times they have seen KPLC-TV video of LaFuria leaving the Calcasieu Jail after his arrest in 2007. It's one of a number of questions jurors were asked in a mock jury selection this week.

The hearing on whether a change of venue should be granted for LaFuria's trial has ended but no ruling is expected until Dec. 7.

Judge David Ritchie is giving attorneys time to submit written arguments on the issue. The defense wants a jury picked from outside Calcasieu Parish due to what they consider extensive publicity in the case. Prosecutors say fair and impartial jurors can found in Calcasieu.

The court has now moved on to continuation of a motion to suppress evidence. The defense argues certain photos investigators seized from LaFuria were beyond the scope of the search warrant they had.

Charges against LaFuria include 186 counts of video voyeurism for allegedly taking nude photos of his patients without their knowledge or permission. He's also charged with 78 counts of sexual battery and 5 counts of molestation of a juvenile. 

LaFuria has been out on bond since 2007.

Fifty prospective jurors were questioned this week.

LaFuria, a former Lake Charles OB/GYN doctor, is accused of taking explicit photos of patients without their knowledge or consent and he's charged with sexual battery of some as well as several charges of molestation of a juvenile.

The purpose of the mock jury selection was to determine how difficult it would be to pick jurors in Calcasieu where there has been news coverage of LaFuria's arrest and alleged criminal behavior. 

Many of those questioned know someone who was one of LaFuria's patients or one of his alleged victims.

A trial date will be set after Ritchie rules on the defense's request for a change of venue and a motion to throw out certain pictures seized from computers -- pictures the defense argues were not covered by the search warrant issued to deputies.

Vamvoras said a change of venue is needed for LaFuria to get a fair trial.

"The number of times that Peter LaFuria is seen on TV leaving the jail, the number of counts, the civil litigation, just the bombarding of information to the public about the case both criminally and civilly. I think it's very difficult for us to see enough jurors who have not been influenced by that media coverage," Vamvoras said.

However, First Assistant District Attorney Cynthia Killingsworth disagrees about the need to pick a jury outside Calcasieu Parish.

"We need to make sure that we get a fair and impartial jury despite that people have been talking or what they've seen in the media. That's it. And the defense has raised this question.  I think that we'll be able to get a Calcasieu jury easily. It's been a long time since this first came out. People have stopped talking about it so much. And I don't really think there's going to be a big problem here," said Killingsworth.

There are an estimated 222 alleged victims in the case and 269 charges against LaFuria. He  was indicted on 186 counts of video voyeurism, 78 counts of sexual battery and five counts of molestation of a juvenile. 

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