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Opening arguments to begin today

WORTHINGTON -- Opening arguments will begin today in Nobles County District Court in the trial of Josue Fraga, accused of murdering his 2-year-old niece Samantha in March 2008.

The 14th and final juror was selected shortly after 4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, after more than four days of questioning and selection. The trial is expected to last through May 15.

Fraga is charged with first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder -- that indictment was handed down by a grand jury last May. He has been in jail since his arrest more than a year ago.

Fraga, who has lost considerable weight since he was first taken into custody, spent the last few days sitting quietly next to his attorneys while they questioned prospective jurors on a variety of subjects, including whether they had any medical training, had any problems with Hispanic people or could look at photos of an autopsy.

"The photos will be fairly graphic," public defender Pam King told one prospective juror.

The prosecuting attorneys, led by Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Bill Klumpp, asked questions regarding each jurors experience with toilet training a child, if they were able to distinguish lies from the truth, and even if they fished and hunted.

Many jurors said they did not wish to participate in the trial because it involved the death of a child, some fighting tears during questioning.

"I don't know if I can handle sitting through it," one woman said. "Just sleeping at night and going home..."

"I hate that I'm here," another said. "It is a gross case."

Despite reservations on the jury's part, 12 jurors and two alternates were chosen and will listen to a few instructions from Judge Timothy Connell this morning right before opening statements. After the statements conclude, the state will be allowed to present their case first, calling witnesses that range from medical experts to members of Fraga's family.