Last Updated: Friday, June 22, 2001, 1 p.m.
Fitzhugh jury selection to start Monday
Trial expected to hinge on paternity
by Bill D'Agostino
Jury selection in The People vs. Kenneth Fitzhugh murder trial
begins on Monday morning at North County Courthouse in Palo Alto.
Fitzhugh is charged with murdering his wife of 33 years, Kristine
Fitzhugh, in the couple's Southgate home in May 2000.
The extensive media coverage and area interest in the case will
likely make the process of finding an unbiased jury pool slow. A
change-of-venue motion by the defense has already been denied.
Superior Court Judge Franklin Elia will preside over the trial.
Deputy District Attorney Michael Fletcher is expected to argue
that Fitzhugh murdered his wife because she was about to tell her
oldest son Justin that another man, Robert Brown, was his father.
The court ruled on Wednesday that Brown will be allowed to testify
in the case, and that all evidence related to the motive can be
admitted without a pretrial proceeding.
Besides Brown, Justin Fitzhugh is expected to testify. Elia granted
Fletcher's request to exclude the younger Fitzhugh from sitting
in on the trial since he is on the prosecution's witness list.
In a police affidavit, Detective Mike Denson of the Palo Alto
Police Department wrote that the evidence leads him to believe "Kenneth
Fitzhugh killed his wife, Kristine Fitzhugh, by beating her over
the head with a blunt object and strangling her. This vicious assault
occurred in the kitchen of their home located at 1545 Escobita Ave.,
Palo Alto, California. During the assault, the victim lost a substantial
amount of blood. Mr. Fitzhugh attempted to clean up the victim's
blood, which had dripped onto the kitchen floor and furniture. He
then moved her body and 'staged' it at the foot of the basement
stairway adjacent to a brass ship bell."
Fitzhugh's attorney, Thomas Nolan, is expected to argue that the
real killer was an intruder who entered the couple's home through
their open basement door.
Nolan says he will also dispute the police department's handling
of the case.
In a letter written to Denson on June 1, Nolan wrote that "the
police department appears to have allowed their conclusions to dictate
the scope of the investigation rather than following the facts revealed
by their investigations wherever they may lead."
In an apparent attempt to influence media coverage of the case
and public opinion, Nolan allegedly sent a copy of the letter to
the San Jose Mercury News.