Accused Wal-Mart Line Cutter on Trial

POSTED: Friday, November 20, 2009 - 1:18pm

UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 11:59pm

Trial for the woman at the center of a controversy that started when she allegedly cut in line at a Missouri Walmart began with jury selection Wednesday.

The day began at 9:00 a.m. Heather Ellis looked on as both prosecution and defense attorneys began questioning 107 potential jurors, the people who could ultimately decide Ellis' fate. Ellis, a college student with plans to go to medical school, got into an argument over a place in line at Walmart three years ago.

When the argument escalated, police were called. Walmart's surveillance cameras were also rolling. Ellis is charged with two counts of assaulting an officer, one count of resisting arrest, and one count of disturbing the peace.

The round of questioning proved tough for many potential jurors:

-25 said they couldn't serve on the jury because they had already formed an opinion.
-4 said they couldn't because of religious issues.
-2 said they would be bothered by hearing profanity.
-17 people asked to see the judge in private.

After more than six hours of questioning, the judge instructed the attorneys to begin selecting the 12 jury members and two alternate jurors who will help decide the case.

Meanwhile, family members who waited outside the courtroom said they were are hoping Ellis gets a fair trial. They said she was slapped with serious charges with potentially heavy penalties because she is black.

Once the jury is selected, trial is expected to last for at least two days. If convicted, Ellis could face a maximum of 15 years in prison.