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Bracing for trial


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 19, 2000

LARGO -- The attorney for a self-avowed skinhead accused of killing a 6-year-old multiracial girl asked a potential juror how she would feel about seeing graphic photos of a young child.

As the child's father looked on during jury selection Wednesday, his fiancee clutched his arm and held his hand.

The father, Terry Mance, and his fiancee, Tracy Townsend, have been in the courtroom since the trial began Tuesday and plan to be there until the end.

During a short break, assistant state attorney Bill Loughery approached Mance and told him to prepare to see those photos of Ashley Mance, who was shot to death inside her home.

After consulting with Loughery, Mance dropped his head in his hands.

It was an emotional moment in what promises to be an emotional trial.

Attorneys are set to give opening statements today in the murder trial of Jessy Joe Roten.

Prosecutors have alleged that on April 3, 1999, Roten fired a rifle into the house of an multiracial couple where three young girls were sleeping, including a set of twin sisters.

After the bullet entered a bedroom wall, it struck Aleesha Mance in the shoulder, exited from the other side of her body and grazed half sister Jailene Jones' right ear. The bullet then struck Ashley Mance, who died after it struck her in the shoulder.

At one time, Roten told police that the firing into the house was accidental.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys selected a jury Wednesday, choosing three white men, two white women and one black woman after two days of jury selection.

Roten's attorneys had pushed for a change of venue, arguing that pretrial publicity may influence jurors and that Roten had been subjected to death threats while in the Pinellas County Jail. Attorneys also said they were concerned that emotional outbursts from Ashley's relatives might influence the jury.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Nancy Ley denied the motion.

Also in the courtroom Wednesday was Yahaira Carattini, Ashley's mother.

Carattini said that she was told by prosecutors and a victim's advocate to be mindful of any emotional outbursts during the trial. "Someone said I was in there crying today, but I wasn't," Carattini said.

Roten is charged with second-degree murder and two charges of attempted murder. The felonies are charged as hate crimes, meaning Roten, 19, could be sentenced up to life in prison if he is convicted.

- Times photographer Boyzell Hosey contributed to this report.

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