BATAVIA, NY -- Scott Doll's defense attorneys renewed motions today, prior to jury selection in his murder trial, to suppress key evidence and some of the statements he made during the initial investigation into the death of Joseph Benaquist.
Jury selection is expected to take as long as three days, with groups of 40 people being called in today, tomorrow and Wednesday, in the hopes of finding 12 impartial jurors and four to six alternates.
Daniel Killelea, who is assisting defense attorney Paul Cambria, argued this morning that introducing as evidence the disputed ownership of two cars in the case would unfairly prejudice the jury without establishing sufficient value to prove the murder charge.
The cars are a 2006 Chevy Malibu and 2008 Pontiac G6.
There is some question as to how Doll came into possession of the Malibu, which apparently was owned, at least at one time, by Benaquist, and there's also a question about who paid for the G6 and to what purpose.
Benaquist and Doll were apparently partners in a used car business.
District Attorney Lawrence Friedman said he intends to show that Doll forged the title on the Malibu so he could sell it to a financing company in Buffalo.
Killelea's position is that there can't be any proof that Doll didn't obtain title to the Malibu legitimately.
He argued that presenting the status of the Malibu as evidence would unfairly prejudice the jury that he committed an uncharged crime, fraud.
As for the G6, the prosecution contends that Benaquist bought the car for himself -- though using the dealership license for SF Enterprises -- and gave Doll $10,000 as a down payment on the $13,300 car, but that the money never reached the financing company.
According to Killelea, there is insufficient evidence that the transaction wasn't for the company and the implication otherwise would prejudice the jury.
Friedman said the two cars, and the ownership dispute is key to the case.
"We anticipate that it will be established that it was these very cars that led to the murder of Joseph Benaquist," Friedman said.
On his other motion, Killelea said that statements made by Doll the night of the alleged murder cannot be admitted because he had asked for an attorney.
The prosecution contends that under the "emergency doctrine," police can try to obtain relevant information that needs to be known immediately and can continue questioning or taking statements even after a suspect has asked for an attorney.
Killelea cited at least three cases that say Doll was entitled to an attorney. But Assistant D.A. Will Zickl countered that there are cases allowing "emergency doctrine" statements to remain admissible, just as he'd argued the first time around on the same motion.
Judge Robert Noonan said he will reserve a ruling on the motions until just before opening arguments.