Jury Pool Deep Enough for Kilgore KFC Murder Trial

By: Crystal Galny & Steve Fullhart Email
By: Crystal Galny & Steve Fullhart Email

More prospective jurors were in court Wednesday morning for the KFC murder trial, but not that many more.

Just 33 showed up Wednesday out of the 140 who didn't appear Monday for jury selection, according to the Brazos County District Clerk's office. However, that was enough for the judge in the case to begin the next stage of jury selection.

Sheriff's deputies were able to contact 47 potential jurors who skipped out. Originally, 600 were summoned for the trial of Darnell Hartsfield.

The 47-year-old is accused of abducting five people from a Kilgore KFC in 1983, then fatally shooting them in a field. Hartsfield's cousin pleaded guilty to the crimes and was sentenced to life in prison.

The trial was moved to Brazos County because of publicity in East Texas.

Monday, Brazos County Sheriff Chris Kirk's office was tasked to knock on 139 doors to try and increase the jury pool. Deputies met face-to-face with 43 of those residents. Others did call in to the courthouse to notify officials of their intensions.

Among their stops in the operation were a burnt out home and some vacant houses. Deputies found out those they were seeking had moved to places like Madisonville, Dallas and Corpus Christi, and even as far as Washington State, New York, Maryland, Florida and Louisiana.

Five residents deputies were seeking had died. One was now homeless.

In all, the operation cost an estimated $6,000, with 13 deputies working Monday and seven working Tuesday. In all, 17 total hours were spent finding the 139 people's whereabouts.

"It doesn't mean anything to us," Sheriff Kirk said. "When we're asked to do something extraordinary like that, we're going to step up and do it, and I'm proud of our deputies. They did a great job."

Kirk says it's likely Brazos County won't be reimbursed by Rusk County for the cost of searching for jurors for their trial.

Jury pool addresses are determined when someone renews their drivers license or when someone registers to vote.

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