Jury picked in murder trial
Opening arguments in the double murder trial of Joseph Moncada and Billy Joe Aguero are set to begin this morning. Fourteen jurors, including two alternates who won't decide the case, were picked Tuesday from a pool of 80 Grand Forks County resid...
Opening arguments in the double murder trial of Joseph Moncada and Billy Joe Aguero are set to begin this morning.
Fourteen jurors, including two alternates who won't decide the case, were picked Tuesday from a pool of 80 Grand Forks County residents after a second day of jury selection.
Moncada, 26, and Aguero, 31, are charged in the drug-related death of Robert Belgarde, 40, and Damien Belgarde, 19. The Grand Forks father and son were found dead on a remote road southwest of town in 2001. Investigators say they were shot over an unpaid debt.
In questioning jurors Tuesday, Assistant State's Attorney Jason McCarthy said prosecutors do not have an eyewitness to the murders nor do they have the gun used to kill the Belgardes.
"Some cases we have a murder weapon, some we don't," McCarthy said. "This one we don't."
McCarthy brought up the fact that the Belgardes were American Indian and that Aguero and Moncada are Hispanic.
"That can't factor into your deliberations," McCarthy said. "We need to know now if it would."
No jurors said it would.
McCarthy also said several people taking the stand and the victims themselves were involved with narcotics and meth.
The defense, which questioned jurors Monday, had no further inquires Tuesday.
Judge Lawrence Jahnke of state District Court excused the jurors well before the lunch hour and told them they would be notified by phone if they were selected.
Moncada and Aguero have each pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and two counts of conspiracy to commit murder. All charges are Class AA felonies, with maximum penalties of life in prison.
In August, the county issued warrants for the arrest of Aguero, who was living in San Antonio, and Moncada, who was doing time in Rush City, Minn., on a drug-related conviction.
Aguero and Moncada, who are in the custody of the Grand Forks County jail, did not wear restraints during jury selection but apparently will have to wear them in court starting today. Aguero's attorney, David Dusek, told the judge he was concerned the jury will see the shackles on his client's ankles.
Jahnke told Dusek, "They won't be looking at his feet."
Moncada's attorney, Robert Martin, told Jahnke that he's worried the jury will hear the jangle of the shackles when his client stands up or sits down.
"We'll use WD-40," Jahnke said.
About 30 people, including experts and law enforcement officials, are scheduled to testify in the trial, which is expected to last into the middle of next week.