Nail gun trial slated to begin today in Napa |

Nail gun trial slated to begin today in Napa

NAPA – After three days of jury selection, opening statements in the trial of suspected killer Richard Williams should begin this afternoon in Napa, the judge said Wednesday.

Nevada County Superior Court Judge Thomas Anderson told attorneys Wednesday to have their opening statements and exhibits ready to go the following afternoon. Deputy District Attorney Kathryn Francis said she plans to display pictures of the victim, Hendrika “Hetty” Williams, who was shot three times with a nail gun.

Francis said the exhibits would not be particularly graphic.

“It’s all a matter of taste,” defense attorney Stephen Munkelt responded.

More than 40 jurors were excused earlier this week for various causes, such as time constraints and work conflicts, Napa County Superior Court Executive Officer Steve Bouch said.

Attorneys are set to begin their preemptory challenges this morning, dismissing jurors without having to cite a reason.

Each attorney in this case is entitled to 23 preemptory challenges, Bouch said.

Court staff in Napa and witnesses subpoenaed to testify in the trial have said jury selection in the Williams case was taking unusually long, but Bouch said finding a jury often takes longer in murder trials.

Depending upon the nature of the crimes and the attorneys and the judge involved, jury selection can go on for several days, he said.

“I’ve seen them take as long as three weeks,” he said. “Jury selection can be a repetitive part of the process, but it’s important.” The three-week jury selection process, he said, was for a prison riot in which there were several victims and suspects.

Jury selection for the murder trial of Grass Valley resident Frank Zupan was completed in less than two days. Zupan, convicted in March of killing his wife for financial gain, was represented by veteran defense attorney Quin Denvir of Sacramento. Former Assistant District Attorney Ron Wolfson prosecuted the case.

Munkelt took several hours Wednesday to question a panel of about 25 potential Napa County jurors about their opinions and possible biases.

Francis began questioning later in the afternoon.

Out of more than 80 jurors in the courtroom, about two-thirds were not questioned Wednesday.

In the packed courtroom, attorneys asked jurors their opinions on divorce, memories of abusive relationships and the use of anti-depressants. Munkelt contends Williams killed his wife because he was withdrawing from the anti-depressant Paxil.

The side effects, Munkelt claims, rendered his client unconscious of his acts.

Jury selection is expected to continue at 9 a.m. today in Napa County Superior Court.


To contact Staff Writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail or call 477-4236.

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