Judge: Bashara jury seated

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — A jury of 11 men and five women was chosen Thursday in the murder trial of Grosse Pointe businessman Robert Bashara with opening arguments to begin Tuesday.

Among the jurors seated after two days of questioning: An advertising executive, a banker and a diver.

Several candidates said they couldn't render fair verdicts because they had been prejudiced by news reports about the case in which Bashara is charged with having his wife killed. Consequently, Wayne Circuit Judge Vonda Evans vacated an earlier decision to seat 12 jurors and six alternates and will instead go with four alternates.

Evans told the jury she would allow prosecutors to have only a 25 minute opening statement, but after the jurors left the courtroom, Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Lisa Lindsey asked for 45 minutes, which the judge granted.

The judge said she won't allow live-streaming of testimony, but said Thursday, "I'm allowing the live stream for both the opening and the closing."

Now that the jury has been seated, Evans said she will release Friday the questionnaires given to prospective jurors.

Bashara, who is charged with first-degree murder, is accused of paying his handyman, Joseph Gentz, to kill his wife, Jane, who was strangled in the garage of their home on Middlesex in January 2012.

Evans said Gentz is scheduled to appear in court Friday afternoon for a hearing to determine whether he will serve as a witness for the defense.

Gentz, who is developmentally disabled, is in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder. He said he killed Jane Bashara at the behest of his boss, Robert Bashara, for whom he did handyman work.

Gentz has tried twice to withdraw his guilty plea. The most recent effort, which came to light Thursday, was Sept. 26, when he was in court for what Evans described as a "mini-hearing."

When reporters Thursday asked Evans about the most recent motion to withdraw, she said she denied Gentz's request.

Bashara tried to pay a furniture store owner to kill Gentz in jail. Bashara pleaded guilty to solicitation of murder and is serving a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

ghunter@detroitnews.com

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