DALLAS - Jury selection is underway in the second trial of an accused serial killer.
Billy Chemirmir is accused of killing at least 18 seniors in Dallas and Collin counties. All but one victim were women.
Prosecutors said Chemirmir posed as a maintenance or health care worker to get into his victims’ homes, then robbed and killed them. Many of them were smothered with pillows to make it look like natural causes.
A judge declared a mistrial in November when jurors, after 10 hours of deliberation, were deadlocked 11-1 in favor of conviction.
The case was based on circumstantial evidence, meaning there was no witness or DNA presented to the jury.
Chemirmir’s second trial, like the first, will focus on the 2018 death of 81-year-old Lu Harris in her Dallas home.
The presentation of evidence likely won't change, but the biggest difference will be a different set of jurors who will consider the circumstantial case against Chemirmir.
The family members of the victims, who were not in court last November because of COVID-19 restrictions, will have their seats in the courtroom.
"Murder is a journey. This trial is just a checkmark along that journey," said Cheryl Pangburn, a family member of one of Chemirmir’s alleged victims, back when the first trial ended with a deadlocked jury.
For the families of 18 people allegedly killed by Chemirmir, the journey for justice continues.
The suspected serial killer's first trial for the murder of Harris last November ended in a hung jury.
The prosecution will try again to get a conviction.
"The defense has the benefit of seeing exactly how the prosecution intends to do that, so those roadmaps rarely change, especially when the decision in the previous mistrial was 11 guilty and one not guilty," explained Demarcus Ward, who is an attorney not involved in the case.
The last jury was deadlocked after ten hours of deliberation and four notes to the judge.
The one difference for certain this time will be the 12 people who will hear the evidence.
"Jury selection is extremely important," Ward added.
Because there has been so much publicity around Chemirmir before and after the first trial, when it comes to selecting jurors, the prosecution and the defense face the same challenge.
"Determining whether that exposure rises to a level of influencing them, to the extent that they would bring more into the courtroom than they should," said Kacy Miller, who is a courtroom logic jury consultant not involved in this case.
Judge Raquelle Jones has said the court will be open.
COVID-19 protocols in the first trial kept family members watching proceedings on another courthouse floor. Jurors could not see their emotion.
Miller said the family members being present will "humanize the victims."
"Jurors observe everything that’s happening within the courtroom," Miller said.
And they also notice what doesn't happen.
"What do you do to make sure you don’t have someone who is so turned off by circumstantial evidence? How do you convince all 12 people that we're not asking you to look at everything in a vacuum, we're asking you to consider all of these things?" Ward said.
Can prosecutors put together the pieces of the puzzle in a way that convinces jurors beyond reasonable doubt that Chemirmir is guilty? Even without DNA and eyewitness testimony?
Or is it as defense attorneys argued, that sometimes, and in this case, things are not always what they seem?
Testimony is set to start Monday and the trial is expected to go at least a week.
Dallas County is not seeking the death penalty if he is convicted, but Collin County still has that option.