Mrs. Joseph was reported missing Feb. 27, 2010, and her body was later found in the Harbor Estates Canal in Stephensville.
Prosecutor Chester Cedars told the court he is seeking the death penalty if Joseph is convicted because the crime was committed in conjunction in conjunction with another felony, kidnapping.
Dewayne Joseph was already in jail in Houma on domestic violence charges related to his wife when he was arrested by the St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Office.
The case was investigated by SMSO Detective Karen Mouton, 16th Judicial District Judge Gerard Wattigny is presiding over the trial, and Public Defender Craig Colwart acts as defense attorney for Joseph.
The trial began Monday with the selection and seating of the jury. Cedars also explained to the mix of white and African-American men and women what was expected of them during the trial as well as how the system worked in a murder trial.
He took special care to explain clearly to the prospective jurors exactly what the charge of first degree murder entailed, relating it to the Joseph case.
“The defendant is charged with first degree murder,” he said. “This means he killed someone with specific intent to kill and inflict great bodily harm. He also must be engaged in the commission of a crime, in this case, second degree kidnapping.”
After hearing the explanation, he addressed each juror, who agreed that they understood the explanation.
Cedars also explained to the juror that someone could not be convicted on any basis other than the evidence presented in the courtroom.
“What does a murderer look like,” he asked rhetorically. “You have to look at the facts to determine whether or not he is guilty.”
Again, each juror was asked if he or she understood and agreed individually to the explanation and instruction.
Cedars continued to explain important aspects of a murder trial to the jury. He said “specific intent” was defined by law as the state of mind that exists when a defendant acts or fails to act, a major element of a first or second degree murder.
He also addressed “circumstantial evidence,” saying the aspect of law was given a bad name by police dramas. Cedars said this evidence was important in proving intent and providing circumstances to the arguments made by the state, saying they led to common sense conclusions in establishing intent as well as circumstances under which the crime could have been committed.
Near the end of jury selection, Cedars made it perfectly clear that he planned to prove Joseph was guilty of the violent murder of his wife, but instructed the jury not to have any special prejudice towards him because his wife was the victim.
“Does this present any specific problems about being fair,” he asked. “Can you put all that aside and judge the case based on the law? You need to judge this case based on the facts.”
When he asked the prospective jurors if they had any problems returning a guilty verdict in a first degree murder case, two said they preferred not to have to make the decision, but both Cedars and Judge Wattigny said no one in the courtroom wanted to have to make that decision, but it was necessary. All the jurors then said they could find the defendant guilty if Cedars proved his case to them.