July 16, 2001 11:00 pm
Liysa King-Northon ().
Liysa King-Northon ().

By Gary Fletcher

Observer Staff Writer

ENTERPRISE The trial of a Bend woman accused of murdering her husband near Lostine in October got under way Monday with jury selection. The trial is scheduled to last through July 27. Opening statements were expected today.

My client admits shooting her husband, Pat Birmingham, Portland defense attorney for Liysa Ann King-Northon, 39, said Monday.

King-Northon, a freelance photographer, is pleading not guilty, and has raised a defense of self-defense, Circuit Court Judge Phillip Mendiguren told the prospective jury members Monday, regarding the death of airline pilot Chris Northon, 44, at Shady Camp up the Lostine Canyon.

Potential jurors were told that this was not a death penalty case.

A jury was expected to be seated today, and opening statements presented by both sides.

Court TV of New York City is taping the proceedings, but Mendiguren will not allow it to be aired until after the trial ends.

Some questions put to the jurors Monday seemed a preview of positions to be taken in the case.

The defense emphasized that the burden of proof was on the state, by repeatedly asking if it would bother jurors to have to presume innocence and vote not guilty for lack of evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, even if they had a gut feeling King-Northon might be guilty.

Jury prospects were also asked: Does the fact that shes been charged by authorities indicate some evidence of guilt to you?

Have you ever felt your life was threatened? What was your first instinct?

Do you own firearms? Is deadly force ever justified? Have you ever had to defend yourself?

When that was asked of a retired police person, the questioning was expanded to:

Ever been at the scene of a shooting?

Can you understand that a person might be uncertain about the number of shots fired or direction of shots?

Answers may not have been as important to lawyers as airing the question to the jury pool.

Steven Briggs of the attorney generals office took the lead for the prosecution.

Do you believe a woman can be violent?

Has someone ever looked you in the eye and you find out later they were lying to you?

Does any one person have a greater right to live than another?

Of a jury pool of 250 people summoned, 84 were brought into the courtroom from the nearby Odd Fellows Hall over the course of the day. Judge Mendiguren, in his first murder trial, excused 31 jurors for cause.

He was to meet in chambers with the attorneys this morning to select the final 12 jurors and four alternates.

Some prospective jurors were excused because they knew the family of the defendant, who has relatives in Joseph.

Several were excused because of work conflicts and health reasons. Many were excused over issues of impartiality.

One responded about having heard something about the case that made my blood boil. Another excused juror said of King-Northon, She had to do what she had to do.

Another found it hard to understand why someone would stay in an abusive relationship.

The publicity with this abuse stuff has been overdone. People have been hurt the other way with it. I have a problem with the whole thing, said another.

Others said they knew of cases where someone was wrongly accused of domestic violence.

King-Northon also has a home in Hawaii, and is the mother of two sons. The 9-year old by a previous marriage was apparently staying with a friend in the Dayton, Wash., area where King-Northon at 10:55 a.m. Oct. 9 went to a hospital to be examined for an alleged domestic assault.

Her 3-year-old son was reportedly with her the night before at the campground where his father was shot to death. A Columbia County deputy sheriff found an unloaded gun in King-Northons car.

She then turned herself in to Umatilla County authorities in Milton-Freewater.