Jury selection begins Monday in Ottawa drowning case

Cusick murder case expected to take two weeks

OTTAWA — Jury selection begins Monday for an Ottawa man accused of drowning his wife in a toilet in their home 13 years ago — and neither side anticipates picking a jury quickly.

Kenneth Cusick, 52, appeared Wednesday and, after a few last-minute motions were heard, both sides signaled they’re ready for trial.

Attorneys told Judge Cynthia M. Raccuglia that they anticipate a two-week trial with the first two days devoted strictly to jury selection. An unusually large pool of more than 600 potential jurors was tabbed while Raccuglia and the lawyers try to ferret out people who’ve read or heard enough about the case to have formed a premature conclusion.

Cusick would face 20-60 years in prison if convicted of first-degree murder. Prosecutors allege he drowned wife Tracy in their home in 2006 — the case took a long, circuitous route getting to trial — while Cusick’s lawyers think the state’s case is problematic and that Cusick cannot be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Raccuglia told the lawyers to report to court at 8:30 a.m. Monday to sift through the questions each side wants to ask potential jurors. Raccuglia acknowledged the need for a larger-than-normal jury pool but hinted she’d place limits on what lawyers could ask.

“I don’t want to still be picking a jury on Christmas Day,” the judge warned.

Prosecutors are expected to call their first witness Wednesday, Dec. 4 and rest the following Monday. Ottawa defense attorneys Ryan Hamer and Ed Kuleck have experts lined up Dec. 10-12. If that timetable holds, closing arguments could take place Friday, Dec. 13.

Tom Collins can be reached at (815) 220-6930 or TCollins@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_Court.