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Attorneys question potential jurors about death penalty

 

Tim Pratt

 

It''s been a long two days for Bobby Batiste. 

 


Sitting silently with his team of defense attorneys in front of a packed courtroom at the Oktibbeha County Courthouse, the former Mississippi State University student has faced more than 100 prospective jurors in his capital murder trial, all the while knowing 12 members of the group ultimately will decide whether he lives or if he dies.  

 


If convicted of capital murder in the commission of a robbery, a count Batiste faces for the March 2008 death of his roommate at 21 Apartments, the Preson native faces one of two sentences: life in prison without the possibility of parole or execution. The jury must vote unanimously in favor of a death sentence for the state to execute Batiste, otherwise he would receive life in prison without parole if convicted. 

 


Sixteenth Circuit Court Judge Jim Kitchens, District Attorney Forrest Allgood and defense attorney Jim Lappan spent Monday and Tuesday interviewing potential jurors first as a group, then individually. Much of the individual questioning centered on prospective jurors'' feelings on the death penalty. Most had mixed feelings.  

 


"My opinion is that some people cannot function in normal society and they shouldn''t be a burden on the state to be incarcerated for the rest of their lives," said one prospective juror, who supported the death penalty over life in prison.  

 


Plenty of prospective jurors held opposite views, however, including several who cited Bible passages and family upbringing as their opposition to execution.  

 


"No person should be able to take the life of another person," said one woman who was opposed to the death penalty.  

 


Attorneys finished questioning 31 of the 58 jurors selected for individual questioning by Tuesday evening, when Kitchens recessed for the day. Interviewing resumed this morning at 8:30 a.m., and was expected to last until around noon.  

 


After Kitchens recessed Tuesday evening, he said he hoped counsel on both sides could agree on a jury panel and Batiste''s trial would begin by this afternoon, barring any unforeseen circumstance.  

 


Batiste, 29, is accused of killing Andreas "Andy" Galanis, 28, of Biloxi, on or about March 7, 2008, in a residence the two men shared at 21 Apartments on Oktoc Road. Batiste was arraigned and pleaded not guilty in July 2008 to a charge of capital murder while in the commission of a robbery, and has spent more than a year in custody awaiting trial.  

 


Galanis'' body was discovered by authorities during the evening hours of March 7, 2008. Police were responding to concerns by Galanis'' parents after he did not show up for a 4 p.m. flight in Biloxi. 

 


After gaining access to Galanis'' apartment, deputies noticed large amounts of blood. Police then discovered the victim''s body. 

 


Authorities said they recovered a weapon, but did not disclose what it was or how Galanis died. Allgood on Monday said Galanis was beaten.  

 


Galanis'' body was taken to Jackson to undergo an autopsy, though details of the report weren''t released.  

 


According to the MSU campus directory, Galanis, who was of Greek descent, was a sophomore in the College of Business and Industry in March 2008, while Batiste was a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences.

 

 

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