ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Jury selection began Monday in the case against Clayton Whittemore, accused of beating his girlfriend, Alexandra Kogut, to death in her dorm room at the College at Brockport.
Whittemore is accused of second degree murder. Back in September of 2012, Kogut, a freshman from New Hartford, New York, was found dead. Whittemore was at the college visiting her. Whittemore was later arrested at a Thruway rest stop.
More than 100 prospective jurors filed into the courtroom. The men and women who could make up the jury in this case were called in one-by-one to be pre-screened by the prosecution, the defense and the judge.
"We're looking for a fair and impartial juror. We're looking for people who can commit up to three or four weeks for a trial and who have really be able to keep an open mind despite all the media attention in this case," said District Attorney Sandra Doorley.
Doorley said this is not a case of who, but of why. There was a delay in this case as both sides waited for their forensic psychiatrics who were working on evaluations of Whittemore. His attorneys could use an extreme emotional disturbance defense.
In interviews with police shortly after the crime, Whittemore himself told police he just snapped.
The prosecution, which never offered any kind of plea deal in this case, doesn't buy it.
Before jury selection got underway, they were asking that recently retrieved cell phone voicemail messages be allowed at trial. Those messages, they said, showed Whittemore's aggression and "cycles of domestic abuse."
The defense argued the messages were prejudicial and they offered love letters between the two that showed otherwise. The judge will allow those messages in.
"I don't' want to get to into the detail of what I intend to prove, but all along we don't believe this was a snap. We believe it was an intentional act," Doorley said.
Twelve jurors and four alternates will be chosen for the jury.
If convicted, Whittemore faces 25 years to life in prison.