Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer (WCO) David L. Grove was shot and killed in the line of duty while on patrol around 10:30 p.m.,
Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer (WCO) David L. Grove was shot and killed in the line of duty while on patrol around 10:30 p.m., on Nov. 11, along Shrivers Road in Freedom Township, Adams County. (Submitted)
A panel of Lancaster County residents will decide the fate of a deer poacher charged with killing an Adams County wildlife conservation officer in 2010.

Christopher Lynn Johnson is facing the death penalty for shooting Officer David Grove during an arrest for illegal hunting in Freedom Township.

Fourteen locals, including two alternates, will be selected this week to hear the case when it opens next month in Adams County.

It is believed to be the first out-of-county homicide case to come here for jury selection in more than two decades.

The jury is being selected here because the high-profile case is so familiar to Adams County residents, according to officials.

Adams County Judge Michael A. George will preside over the trial, beginning Sept. 24. Jurors will be transported back and forth each day, officials said. Adams County will pay costs associated with the arrangement.

While choosing an out-of-county jury isn't unheard of, local officials said, few cases in recent memory have involved Lancaster County.

"It's been quite a while," Lancaster County President Judge Joseph Madenspacher said.

He recalled some cases in which local juries were used for out-of-county cases - including one out of Philadelphia and another from Lehigh County - but none, he recalled, since the 1980s.

Jury selection began Monday morning in Madenspacher's courtroom and is expected to last most of the week.

A pool of about 30 jurors will come in each day for questioning, with more than 100 potential jurors scheduled to appear.

They are being asked a variety of questions about their prejudices and opinions and what they've heard about the case, which gained national attention two years ago.

Each potential juror was asked Monday whether he or she could impose a sentence of death.

A man in his 40s, known as Juror No. 12, said "I could," quietly, but seemingly assured.

That juror also was asked if he could ignore things he's seen on television shows, such as "CSI."

"Oh, yes," the man said.

Christopher Lynn Johnson is accused of killing wildlife officer David Grove.
Christopher Lynn Johnson is accused of killing wildlife officer David Grove. (Submitted)

Neither side objected, and the man was picked to serve.

Johnson, dressed in a white button-up shirt with pinstripes and black slacks, listened closely, jotted notes and whispered to his three attorneys.

Juror No. 17, a middle-aged man, was dismissed after defense lawyers objected to his position on the death penalty. The man said anyone convicted of killing a law-enforcement official deserves the death penalty.

"If they're sane and it's premeditated," the man said.

Another man, in his 50s, was dismissed after prosecutors objected to his stance on capital punishment. The man was hesitant when asked if he could vote for a death sentence.

"I'm scared to say I could sentence someone to death," the man said. "I guess you could say it's partly religious. I just don't believe in taking another life."

In a death-penalty case, each side can object to 20 potential jurors.

Selection will continue this morning.

Local legal experts recalled at least three local homicide cases since 1980 that were tried out-of-county. Coincidentally, all three went to Northampton County. And all three defendants were convicted and are serving life sentences.

They were:

Tabitha Buck, charged with killing 16-year-old Laurie Show on Dec. 21, 1991, in East Lampeter Township.

Jimmy Lee Herr, of New Holland, charged with stabbing to death his Amish neighbor, 50-year-old Naomi Huyard, in November 1982.

Gerald E. Zimmerman, charged with killing 14-year-old Evelyn Fisher in July 1980. Fisher's body was found months later in the Welsh Mountains.

In the Johnson case, prosecutors are alleging that he shot Grove, 31, multiple times on Nov. 11, 2010, after Grove stopped him for poaching a deer. Johnson, now 29, struggled with Grove as he was being handcuffed, and the two exchanged fire. Grove was fatally wounded in the neck.

It was revealed in court Monday that alcohol was involved in the alleged crime.

Read more at the Evening Sun

Four jurors selected so far in Johnson case