Jury selection begins in Woodrow Karey manslaughter case

Jury selection begins in Woodrow Karey manslaughter case
Woodrow Karey (Source: Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office)

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Jury selection is underway in the trial of Woodrow Karey who is charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of a Lake Charles pastor.

It was a case that stunned the community and received national publicity when, September 27, 2013, Pastor Ronald Harris gunned down while preaching in front of his congregation at the Tabernacle of Praise Worship Center in Lake Charles.

Deputies say Woodrow Karey first ran, but then voluntarily surrendered.

He was charged with second-degree murder, but after lengthy legal wrangling, he's now on trial for manslaughter.

The state is seeking what's called a "firearm enhancement" which means, if convicted, the minimum sentence would be 20 years. Whereas, without the enhancement, a manslaughter sentence is anywhere from 0 to 40 years incarcerated.

During interviews in October 2017, prosecutors explained why they were seeking the enhancement.

"This case really should have been a second-degree murder case.  It is a very serious case in which a homicide took place in a church in front of a large number of individuals," said John DeRosier, Calcasieu District Attorney.

"He killed this man with a firearm in front of his congregation. Certainly, we would go for the firearm enhancement," said First Assistant District Attorney Cynthia Killingsworth.

However, in October interviews, defense attorneys predict Karey will be found not guilty.

"Our client is not guilty of this charge. We think once we go to trial they will not be able to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt," said Todd Clemons, defense attorney for Karey.

"Our position is that Mr. Karey's committed no crime.  We're not worried about any sentencing provision, later on, to be determined after a trial. This is a justifiable homicide," said Adam Johnson, of the Karey defense team.

Though so far, Karey's attorney has not said why they consider the homicide justifiable, nor have the publicly discussed the facts of the case.

So far, a couple of the first group of 60 jurors have been excused.  Jury selection continues at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning.  Due to limited seating in the courtroom during jury selection, deputies are restricting who can enter.

Theresa will be following along, you can follow her on Twitter @KplcTschmidt for live updates.

Copyright 2018 KPLC All rights reserved