El Paso County's first death-penalty trial in a decade officially begins Thursday with the weekslong process of picking a jury.
Although jury selection marks the start of trial for double-murder suspect Glen Law Galloway, it could be two months or more before opening statements are delivered, 4th Judicial District Judge Gregory Werner has estimated.
In preparation for the case, the county jury commissioner sent out 2,800 summonses to county residents, in what's believed to be a local record. Still, the number pales in comparison with the 9,000 Denver-area residents called to a Centennial courthouse for the 2015 trial of Aurora theater shooter James Holmes.
In all, 1,200 people are expected to report for questioning over the next two weeks - spanning 300 a day on Thursday and Friday and again on March 15 and 16.
On each of those days, 150 people will report in the morning and another 150 will report for an afternoon session, said District Administrator Scott Sosebee.
Splitting the prospective jurors into groups of 150 should ease crowding, Sosebee said.
The courthouse routinely sees crowds of up to 300 potential jurors at a time on Monday and Tuesday mornings, he said.
On busy trial days, it's not uncommon for lines to stretch from the courthouse entrance to Tejon Avenue, where it occasionally doglegs all the way to Vermijo Street a half-block south as people wait to get in.
"We're actually expecting less crowds than we normally would on a high-volume jury day," Sosebee said. He predicted few problems getting prospective jurors into the courthouse, and said the court security team, which is overseen by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, will decide its staffing based on how the crowds develop outside the courthouse.
Potential jurors will fill out questionnaires and be questioned in person by attorneys and the judge.
Galloway, who turned 46 last month, is accused in back-to-back killings in 2016 of a homeless man, Marcus Anderson, and Galloway's ex-girlfriend, Janice Nam, whom he was forbidden to contact under a prior conviction for stalking. The case spurred a new law denying bond before sentencing for anyone convicted of felony stalking or being a habitual domestic violence offender.
The trial marks the first local death penalty case since cop killer Marco Lee averted a death penalty by pleading guilty to murder charges in 2008. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole plus 167 years.