Jury seated after full day of questioning

Eric Knysz (left) is accused of shooting and killing Michigan State Police trooper Paul Butterfield during a traffic stop in September 2013. Knysz's trial started on Tuesday in Mason County's 51st Circuit Court and is expected to last nine days.

Eric Knysz (left) is accused of shooting and killing Michigan State Police trooper Paul Butterfield during a traffic stop in September 2013. Knysz’s trial started on Tuesday in Mason County’s 51st Circuit Court and is expected to last nine days.

Testimony in Knysz trial begins today

LUDINGTON — After it hears testimony from more than 40 witnesses, a jury of three men and nine women will decide the fate of Eric Knysz.

Jury selection for Knysz’s trial took about seven hours on Tuesday in Mason County’s 51st Circuit Court. Knysz, 19, of Irons is accused of shooting Michigan State Police trooper Paul Butterfield during a traffic stop on Sept. 9, 2013, on Custer Road near Townline Road in Mason County’s Sherman Township.

Butterfield conducted the stop at 6:20 p.m. and a passing motorist called 9-1-1 three minutes later to report finding the trooper on the ground with a bullet wound to the head.

Butterfield was transported to the Munson Medical Center in Traverse City, where he died during emergency surgery.

Knysz and his wife Sarah then allegedly stole a vehicle and were apprehended in Dublin after a “be-on-the-lookout” was issued. According to police, Knysz pointed a gun at approaching officers, and was shot in the knee as a result.

Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola did not offer a plea deal to Knysz. In Mason County, he faces the following charges:

• Homicide of a peace officer, life without parole;

• Felony firearm, two years served consecutively to the sentence of count one;

• Carrying a concealed weapon, up to five years and/or a $2,500 fine; and

• Unlawful driving away of an automobile, up to five years.

He appeared in court on Tuesday dressed in a red dress shirt and with a cane, likely still recovering from the knee wound.

Knysz’s court appointed defense attorney David Glancey and Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola led the jury selection, asking potential jurors about their thoughts on law enforcement officers and about any potential biases that would arise in deciding the case.

“Regarding the police, I do deeply respect them,” one potential juror said. “I think I could put that aside, however, and treat (their testimony) like anybody else.”

Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola (left) introduced more than 40 witnesses during jury selection for accused trooper shooter Eric Knysz's trial on Tuesday.

Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola (left) introduced more than 40 witnesses during jury selection for accused trooper shooter Eric Knysz’s trial on Tuesday.

Spaniola introduced his witnesses one by one to the jurors, and Judge Richard Cooper asked if the jurors had any relationships with the witnesses that would prohibit them from judging testimony.

“Each person that’s being introduced, my first question will be, do you have a problem being a juror regarding the person being introduced,” Cooper told the jury pool. “By problem, there might be something out there that you would favor that person in a way that’s one sided, or you might disfavor that person in a way that would be one sided.”

Totaling more than 40 names, Spaniola’s witness list includes, detectives, dispatchers, and numerous law enforcement officers from the Michigan State Police, Mason County Sheriff’s Office and Lake County Sheriff’s Office. Several non-law enforcement witnesses were presented, including a medical examiner and Timothy Schultz.

In October, Schultz testified in Manistee County’s 85th District Court that Knysz and his wife Sarah stole his vehicle on Sept. 9, 2013.

Spaniola introduced Jack Knysz, father of the defendant, and Sarah Knysz, wife of the defendant, as witnesses scheduled to testify in the trial. In addition, Butterfield’s fiance Jennifer Sielski is listed as a witness.

During the jury selection process, three jurors had to be dismissed because they were pictured in the background of a photograph posted by a Kent County media outlet to Facebook.

After the prosecution’s witness list was complete, Knysz introduced himself to the jury pool. He said he grew up in Irons and went to school in Freesoil and at Manistee High School. He added that he worked in the tree removal industry.

Both attorneys asked the potential jurors about their prior knowledge of the case and told them about the necessity to set aside media reports from court proceedings. Some jurors reported not following the case in the news at all, while others reported following every development.

“We’ve all heard publicity about this case, every one of us,” Spaniola said. “What decides this case will be the evidence and the witness testimony in the courtroom, not listening to TV, not what’s in the newspaper and not what’s online. The question is, are you able to set aside anything that you’ve seen in the media and decide this case based upon the evidence produced here in court.”

Spaniola said he has DNA evidence, finger prints and ballistics that he plans to introduce throughout the trial.

“You’re going to be asked to make a hard decision at the end of this,” he said.

Glancey advised the jurors that Knysz does not have to testify on his behalf and that he is innocent until the prosecution proves him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The trial is expected to last nine days; testimony begins today at 9:30 a.m. in Mason County’s 51st Circuit Court. Cooper ordered the jurors not to do independent research on the case, follow news reports or discuss the case with family.

Two alternate jurors, both women, were also selected in case one of the 12 jurors cannot continue with the trial for any reason.

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Posted by Eric Sagonowsky

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