More than 250 potential jurors have been excused as lawyers pick a jury to hear Horry County’s first death penalty case in a decade.
A jury pool that started months ago with 400 people was whittled down to 120 members by midday Monday. The jury is set to hear the case of Jerome Jenkins, who faces murder, attempted murder and armed robbery charges in connection to a series of convenience store robberies in 2015.
A large juror pool is needed as the state seeks the death penalty in the case. Monday was the first time potential jurors stood before prosecutors, defense attorneys and the judge in an Horry County courtroom and answered questions. The jury selection process is expected to last a few days.
The potential jurors left no empty seats as they packed Horry County’s largest courtroom. Jenkins sat a table with his lawyers as the sides collected information on prospective members.
The jury will decide Jenkins’ fate and, if convicted, the same group will determine if he should be executed.
The last lethal injection in South Carolina was administered in 2011.
There are currently three men on death row with cases from Horry County, with the most recent being Louis Winkler in 2008.
Jenkins — along with McKinley Daniels and James Daniels — is accused of robbing convenience stores in the Conway area. Investigators believe the trio killed Balla Paruchuri in January 2015 at a Sunhouse convenience store on S.C. Highway 905.
Weeks later the team allegedly robbed the Scotchman on Lake Arrowhead Road and the Sunhouse store on Oak Street, where clerk Trish Stull was shot and killed. Prosecutors say Jenkins and McKinley Daniels entered the stores and robbed them while James Daniels served as lookout and driver.
The community was on edge following the shooting, and officers visited shops at night to help employees safely close their businesses.
Last year, a jury convicted James Daniels of murder and two counts of armed robbery, and he was sentenced to life in prison. McKinley Daniels pleaded guilty earlier this year to murder and armed robbery and will spend at least 45 years behind bars.