Jury selection continues for the ninth day today in the trial of Ginger and David Twitchell. The Christian Science couple is charged with manslaughter in the death of their 2 1/2-year-old son in 1986 because they resorted to Christian Science healing rather than conventional medicine. As of Friday, nine jurors had been seated. The court is seeking a total of 12 jurors and four alternates for the trial. The two sides have rejected 47 potential jurors out of a combined total of 64 possible challenges.
During public questioning, by Suffolk County Superior Court Judge Sandra Hamlin, many potential jurors were excused after they said they might hold it against one or both defendants if they did not testify. Judge Hamlin excused several others after they said they were skeptical that anyone could be healed by prayer.
Jurors who came in for the closest questioning by the judge included those who said they knew Christian Scientists or who evidenced any acquaintance with the Christian Science religion.
The judge asked one juror, who said she had written a paper on Christian Science and the tort system in a university law class, ``Could you put aside anything you learned about Christian Science outside this courtroom and make decisions based solely on evidence presented in this courtroom?''
``Yes,'' the juror replied.
If jury selection is completed today, opening statements are not expected before Wednesday, at the earliest. Judge Hamlin still has several pretrial motions before her, however.
On Thursday, the judge denied a defense motion to exclude, on grounds of prosecutorial misconduct, records of Mrs. Twitchell's past visits to doctors before and during childbirth in compliance with California law.
Special prosecutor John Kiernan maintains the records show Mrs. Twitchell resorted to medical treatment. Defense counsel Rikki Klieman says they show nothing of the sort, and that the prosecution obtained the records improperly. She says that, in any event, they are irrelevant to the case.
Hamlin has not made a final decision on the admissibility of the records.