Wisconsin News

Jury selected for Lepsch trial; Opening statements to begin Wed.

LA CROSSE, Wis. - Seven men and eight women have been selected as jurors, which includes three alternates in the case.

The jury will be deciding whether Jeffrey Lepsch is responsible for killing Paul Petras and his son, A.J., last September inside May's Photo shop and then stealing thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment.

Jury selection started at about 9a.m. Tuesday and ended at three p.m.

A total of 39 potential jurors were brought into the courtroom one at a time for questioning.

Cheryl Gill is an attorney at Johns Flahrety and Collins. She has no connections to the case, but she said speaking from experience, questioning each potential juror individually is rare.

"That speaks to how important a good jury is, particularly in a case so serious, because neither side would want to retry this," said Gill.

Each potential juror filled out a questionnaire prior to Tuesday's jury selection.


La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke, and Vincent Rust, one of Lepsch's defense lawyers then took turns asking potential jurors things including whether they had made up their mind in the case, if they could make a decision based on just evidence presented in the courtroom and who they think are credible witnesses.

"You want to have people who are open to listen to the evidence before deciding what the facts are," said Gill.

After the first round of jury selection, the judge excused six people, including one man who knew A.J., another who was applying to join the La Crosse County Sheriff's Department, and a woman whose family owns the jewelry shop one door away from May's Photo.

In the afternoon, the remaining potential jurors were all brought back for group questioning.

Gruenke went first, asking them their opinions on crime shows, the importance of evidence and their thoughts on the need to prove a motive.

"When I was a prosecutor, what I really wanted were jurors who would listen to the testimony, evaluate it seriously and without bias, and then apply the law as the judge gave it to them," said Gill.

Rust followed with questions about objectivity, the probability of false convictions and whether someone can be a thief but not a murderer.

"As a defense lawyer, there may be occasions where you want ignore the law," said Gill. "In essence, nullify the law that's applicable to the case."

Fifteen people were chosen. Three will be randomly dismissed after closing arguments, leaving 12 will render a verdict.

The opening statements are set to start Wednesday at 8:30a.m.

Lepsch has pleaded not guilty in the case. He faces life in prison if convicted.


The jury has been selected in Jeffrey Lepsch's trial.

Lepsch is accused of shooting Paul and his son A.J. Petras to death in their downtown La Crosse family business last September.

Lepsch has been charged with two counts of first-degree homicide, armed robbery and possession of a firearm. He has pleaded not guilty in the case and faces life in prison if convicted.

Fifteen people were selected, but only 12 will render a verdict.

Opening statements will begin Wednesday morning. The trial is expected to last about nine days.

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