A trial will begin as scheduled for a Kenosha man accused of killing a local woman found beaten and partially naked in a cemetery.
Attorneys agreed Thursday that they would be ready to start Javier Garcia’s trial as planned on May 10. The trial could last a week.
The unusual Friday start date — trials typically start on Mondays in Kenosha County — was scheduled, in part, to make sure attorneys had enough time to question jurors.
An estimated 150 people will be brought in and asked whether they know anything about the case. Attorneys hope to then find a pool of 70 to 80 people who have not heard about Lisa Mezera’s murder or, at least, have not formed any opinions about her death based on area news reports.
Mezera, 26, of Kenosha, was found dead in August in B’nai Zedek Cemetery, 1760 Sheridan Road. She was beaten and strangled and, evidence suggests, her killer tried to sexually assault her.
Garcia, 52, was the last person seen with Mezera, and DNA evidence ties him to her deadly attack, according to a criminal complaint. He was charged in October and pleaded not guilty to first-degree intentional homicide and felony battery, among other crimes.
Garcia is in jail because he has not posted a $1 million bond. If convicted, he faces mandatory life in prison.
Regarding jury selection, Kenosha County Circuit Judge Mary Wagner predicted Thursday that jurors would be questioned in groups of 10 about what they might have heard, read or seen about the case before proceeding with the rest of jury selection. Wagner said she expected to pick a jury in one day, but warned that could mean working later than usual.
The judge did not discuss an earlier proposal to hold court on Saturday, May 11, to make sure the case stayed on schedule. Instead, she told attorneys to be ready with opening statements on May 13.
Some issues could not be resolved Thursday, including whether jurors will be taken to the cemetery where Mezera was found.
Kenosha County District Attorney Robert Zapf suggested that jurors see the site, since they might not be familiar with the cemetery, which is bordered by Sheridan Road, a tree line, a tavern and a trailer park. Mezera was found near a turnaround within the cemetery, not visible from the road.
“It’s difficult to describe,” Zapf said. “You have to see it for yourself. And that’s my point. This cemetery is kind of off the beaten track and unknown by people in this community.”
Defense attorney Terry Rose challenged whether taking jurors to the scene would really add or subtract anything to the case or, specifically, help jurors decide whether Garcia is innocent or guilty.
Rose also raised issues of transportation, since Garcia would have to accompany jurors to the scene.
Wagner said she would hold off on deciding until she saw pictures of the area.