Pleasanton Weekly

News - December 10, 2010

Jury selection continues in Castlewood murder case

Trial for Ernest Scherer III could begin in January

by Glenn Wohltmann

Attorneys in the murder trial of accused Castlewood killer Ernest Scherer III continued their long process of selecting jurors for the case this week, with an eye to actually starting the trial in January.

Scherer was charged with the murders of his father, Ernie Scherer Jr., 60, and his wife, Charlene Abendroth, 57, in February 2009, nearly a year after the brutal killings occurred.

Sifting though a stack of jury questionnaires more than a foot high, the attorneys and Judge Jeffrey Horner by mid-week had pretty much wrapped up exclusions for people who either can't or shouldn't be allowed to serve on the jury.

Reasons for those exclusions ranged from medical excuses to people who can't understand English well enough to participate to at least one person who admitted he wouldn't necessarily follow the law in the case.

Those potential jurors, 360 in all, were required to fill out a survey of more than 20 pages and be interviewed by the court.

Next comes the process of actually seating the 12-member panel to hear the trial. Each attorney will be allowed a number of challenges to specific individuals in an attempt to create a jury favorable to his side. The attorney doesn't need to explain his reason for asking a potential juror to be bumped.

The murder victims were apparently bludgeoned and stabbed repeatedly, but Alameda County Prosecutor David Stein said late last year that prosecutors won't seek the death penalty.

Scherer Jr. was an active Republican fundraiser and former member of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District board.

Scherer III was linked to the scene by a red Chevy Camaro, similar to the one he owned, that was spotted in the neighborhood at the time of the killings.

Between motions on both sides and the work to select a jury, the pretrial phase on the case has lasted nearly two months. Provided a jury can be seated in time, the trial is set to begin Jan. 4.

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