Harris Trial: Judge relocates proceedings due to large number of potential jurors

By Sandy Gallant

April 30, 2013 Updated Apr 30, 2013 at 11:02 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- In an unprecedented move, court proceedings in the Christopher Harris murder trial were temporarily moved inside the Peoria County Courthouse Tuesday to accommodate the large pool of potential jurors.

Judge Scott Drazewski referred to the relocation of court proceedings to the jury commission office as ‘an aberration,’ but a necessary move given the large group of potential jurors and logistically not having enough seating available in the courtroom itself.

The McLean County judge stood before 157 Peoria County residents Tuesday morning and introduced the Logan County case by reading out loud the state’s bill of indictment against Harris.

When the judge said there are 38 counts in the case, a collective and audible gasp came from the seated group in the room.

Potential jurors are filling out an additional questionnaire and reviewing the list of witnesses in the case.

A group of 30 randomly selected jurors will report for the trial’s first day of jury selection Wednesday.

The jury selection process involves a panel of four potential jurors being seated in the courtroom and then being interviewed by the attorneys and judge in the case.

Once 12 jurors and four alternates are selected, opening statements will begin.

Judge Drazewski noted that the jury will not be sequestered during this trial. He said it is his hope and good faith estimate to have a jury seated in this case by the end of the week.

Christopher Harris faces dozens of murder counts in connection with the deaths of Rick and Ruth Gee and three of their children. All five were found beaten to death in their Beason, Illinois home in September 2009.

If convicted, Christopher Harris faces up to life in prison.