Trial For Pittston Murder Suspect Gets Underway
WILKES-BARRE — The trial for Pittston murder suspect Stephen Spencer got under way with jury selection Monday.
After a full day of questioning and selecting, lawyers agreed on a panel of seven women and five men who will be tasked with deciding whether Spencer, 31, of Pittston, committed murder or acted in self-defense when he fatally shot Christopher Williams, 32, also of the city.
Race is shaping up to be a significant issue for the jury to consider — testimony at Spencer’s preliminary hearing established that the shooting took place after Williams’ cousin, a white man, refused to shake Spencer’s hand because he is black.
It was also clearly something the defense was considering Monday morning with a motion filed requesting the court reporter to note each prospective juror’s race in the trial record.
In the end, the chosen jury panel was mostly white, but included a black man seated as a primary juror and a black woman seated as an alternate.
The deadly shooting took place outside Saints & Sinners Irish Pub on Center Street, Pittston, early the morning of July 9, 2017. Williams’ cousin Marty Williams previously testified that a dispute arose because he refused to shake Spencer’s hand.
“I don’t socialize with nobody outside of my race. That’s just the way I am,” Marty Williams testified during the preliminary hearing.
Marty Williams claimed that as he and his cousin were leaving the bar Spencer ambushed them and shot Christopher Williams without warning. When police arrived they found Spencer holding a .45-caliber pistol, saying, “Here’s the gun. I shot him.”
Pike has previously suggested a group of people using racial epithets confronted Spencer outside the bar and prevented him from reaching his vehicle. He described Spencer, who was licensed to carry a concealed weapon, as facing a “classic self-defense” situation.
Spencer has been held without bail at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility since his arrest.
Opening statements are set to begin this morning.
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