13 women, 1 man chosen as jurors in Idaho attorney's murder-for-hire trial
REBECCA BOONE Associated Press
First Posted: April 26, 2011 - 1:44 pm
Last Updated: April 26, 2011 - 7:26 pm
BOISE, Idaho — A jury made almost entirely of women will decide the fate of a northern Idaho attorney accused of hiring a hit man to kill his wife and mother-in-law. A pool of 65 potential jurors was narrowed down to a panel of 13 women and just one man Tuesday in Boise's U.S. District Court. Two will be selected as alternates.
Edgar J. Steele faces federal charges of use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission for murder for hire; use of explosive material to commit a federal felony; possession of a destructive device in relation to a crime of violence; and tampering with a victim. If convicted of the most serious charge — possession of a destructive device — he could get at least 30 years in prison.
Federal prosecutors say Steele hired a hit man to kill Cyndi Steele and her mother in hopes that their deaths would leave him with a life insurance payout and free him to pursue a romantic relationship with a woman from Ukraine.
The prosecutors contend he hired Larry Fairfax — who is expected to testify for them — to plant a pipe bomb under his wife's car. The resulting explosion and crash were intended to look like an accident, according to prosecutors.
Steele has maintained his innocence, and has said he's being framed by the U.S. government in part because he's represented unpopular clients in the past, including the Aryan Nations. Steele has also garnered financial support from friends and well-wishers: A website called Free Edgar Steele purports to have raised more than $118,000 for his defense, and Cyndi Steele's attorney says most of the money has come in the form of small donations ranging from $5 to under $500.
Potential jurors were quizzed on their feelings about lawyers, their experiences with the federal government and their interest in subjects ranging from explosives to popular crime television shows. Among those excused were a forensic psychologist, a former law enforcement officer for the Department of Transportation and a woman who said she was upset over the way federal agencies have handled land use issues in the West.
Opening statements in the trial were expected to begin Wednesday.