Rebert murder trial starts today

BROOKVILLE — Jury selection was completed Friday for the trial of Steven Patrick Rebert, as 12 jurors and four alternates were chosen for the trial, which is set to begin with opening arguments at 9 a.m. today at the Jefferson County Courthouse.

Rebert, formerly of Emporium, faces double homicide charges in the shooting deaths of Victoria Lynn Shugar and her husband, James Shugar — also known as Wayne Shugar — both 61, who were found dead April 12, 2010, in their Coal Tipple Road home, Brockway.

Judge John H. Foradora, who will preside over the case, said last week that the panel of potential jurors were asked general questions — basically as to whether they felt they could participate on the jury — in the large courtroom.

Those who remained from that general pool were interviewed by both the prosecution and the defense in the small courtroom.

Foradora has said it’s hard to predict how long the trial will take.
Unlike the 2002 murder trial of Robert Rega, Foradora doesn’t expect the jury for the Rebert trial to be sequestered.

During the Rega trial, there were issues of possible jury tampering and alleged threats, he said.

The trial is open to the public, but Sheriff Carl Gotwald Sr. noted that his deputies will have a strong presence at the courthouse throughout the trial.

Anyone entering the courthouse — regardless of whether he or she is attending the trial — must pass through the metal detector on the ground floor, Gotwald said.

He said there will be an average of six deputies in the courtroom during the trial.

Cameras and cell phones will be prohibited, Gotwald said, advising that those who enter the courthouse should leave their cell phones in their vehicles.

Jefferson County District Attorney Jeffrey Burkett is the prosecutor in the case, and he is seeking the death penalty for Rebert.

Foradora asked potential jurors if they were active on social networking sites — such as Facebook and Twitter — and if so, if the court could “friend” them on Facebook to monitor their status during the trial, if they were chosen to serve on the jury.

Public Defender John Ingros is defending Rebert with Jacqueline “Sis” Mizerock and Michael Marshall.

Marshall explained to jury candidates during the selection process that the trial would possibly have two parts: The first, during which jurors will determine Rebert’s guilt or innocence on the charge of first-degree murder; and the second, a penalty phase during which the jury would decide upon a punishment — life in prison without the possibility or parole, or the death penalty — held only if the jury finds Rebert guilty of first-degree murder.

Part of the penalty phase includes the jury evaluating aggravating circumstances and mitigating circumstances.

Aggravating circumstances are those that would support a death sentence, while mitigating circumstances — such as alcoholism, mental illness or abuse — would support a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Foradora has set aside at least two weeks for the trial.