Jury selected in Hester trial

Opening statements, witness calling planned today

Posted: Wednesday, January 11, 2006

After two days of questioning candidates, a jury of 12 people and two alternates were selected Tuesday to hear the murder trial of a Kasilof woman accused of killing her boyfriend more than two years ago.

Betsy M. Hester, 53, is charged with one count of second-degree murder for allegedly killing John E. Clark, 49, of Kasilof, on Oct. 4, 2003.

Attorneys plan to present opening statements this morning in the Kenai court, followed by witnesses to be called by the state.

Superior Court Judge Charles Huguelet, Assistant District Attorney Jean Seaton and Hester’s defense team, public defender Brooke Browning and Anchorage-based attorney Jim McComas, spent Monday and Tuesday paring a pool of approximately 70 potential jurors down to seven women and seven men ranging in age from approximately 25 to 70.

Potential jurors were questioned about biases that might impair their ability to hear evidence impartially, including biases toward men or women with respect to domestic abuse and for or against law enforcement.

Some questions asked jurors if they could overcome their biases. Seaton, for example, asked jurors if they could find a defendant guilty of violating a law even if they did not agree with the law in question.

On Monday, some of the questioning took place in Huguelet’s chambers. The judge and attorneys retreated to privately question jurors who could not otherwise respond to questions about domestic abuse without disclosing personal information.

During a 2003 bail hearing, former Kenai District Attorney Dwayne McConnell said that on Oct. 3, Clark and Hester had been drinking and arguing at the Decanter Inn in Kasilof. They went to the home they shared for seven years in the vicinity of Pollard Loop Road, where the argument continued.

Clark reportedly slapped Hester numerous times in the face and struck her with his fist.

He then went to the kitchen, and as he returned, continuing to threaten bodily harm, she allegedly shot him twice with a 9mm pistol.

According to court documents, one bullet struck Clark in the arm and exited through his back and the other entered his middle left back, struck the bottom half of his heart, went through his lung and exited the left side of his abdomen before striking his left thigh.

Three other shots were fired, but missed documents said.

Hester then called the Alaska State Troopers at 1:47 a.m., Oct. 4, saying she had shot her boyfriend.

Investigators said Clark’s blood-alcohol level was .231 — nearly four times the level considered to be legally intoxicated in Alaska — and Hester’s was .156.

Hester was taken into custody Oct. 18 after turning herself in to troopers in Soldotna following the indictment.

She was released from custody on $25,000 bail Oct. 24 and required to have a third-party custodian.

On Monday, Huguelet told jurors the trial is likely to take two weeks.

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