Judge Jane Woodward Miller said the court called 120 potential jurors rather than the usual 60 called for a murder trial. The reasoning behind that was to get a larger pool of people to find impartial jurors.
The trial will last more than a week since Sturgis must leave court by 4:30 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to receive his five hour dialysis treatments.
Police say Sturgis murdered his 10-year-old son Tramelle in the basement of a South Bend home where they lived last November. Sturgis refused to make eye contact or answer questions as police escorted him from the courtroom back to his jail cell Thursday.
He’d agreed to a last-minute plea with the prosecution, but after admitting to the judge under oath that he punished Tramelle and another son by hitting them repeatedly with a two to three-foot-long wooden dowel rod like this one and burning them with a hot clothing iron, Sturgis stopped short of acknowledging those actions are what caused Tramelle's death.
“I don’t want to waste nobody's time or nothing but I didn't intentionally kill my son," Sturgis said.
Judge Miller rejected the plea, saying “I can’t accept a guilty plea from someone who doesn't think he's guilty."
Because of that, Sturgis’ trial will begin as scheduled on Monday. The State's witness list includes 22 people – including six police officers and detectives, a South Bend Fire Department paramedic, six doctors, a teacher, a secretary at Tramelle's school and another South Bend intermediate school principal. Two of Sturgis’ other sons he’s also accused of abusing are also expected to testify.
Jury selection begins Monday afternoon. Sturgis could still plead anytime until he's either convicted or found not guilty, but it’s up to the prosecutor and the judge to decide whether they want to accept a plea, and it's unlikely that would happen.