CHARLESTON -- Testimony is set to begin Wednesday (Feb. 21) in the trial of a Mattoon man accused of killing a woman with shots that might have been meant for someone else.
James Todd Shafer faces charges of first-degree murder and other offenses in connection with the June 18, 2016, shooting death of Ciara F. Faires at an apartment building at 313 S. 21st St., Mattoon.
Shafer, 26, of Mattoon might have been returning fire in a confrontation involving others, according to previous police testimony, but the 23-year-old Charleston woman was hit and died later at Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center.
Jury selection for Shafer's trial took place on Tuesday for the trial that's expected to last into next week. He faces at least 45 years in prison, with a life sentence the possible maximum, if convicted of the murder charges against him.
Also charged in connection with the shooting with a March 5 trial scheduled is Shawn D. Adamson, 35.
Adamson is also charged with first-degree murder but isn't accused of actually shooting Faires. He allegedly caused the incident that led to the shooting by going to the apartment building to confront Shafer about stealing a gun from him.
Faires, who was Shafer's girlfriend, had just left the apartment after an argument with Shafer but was still outside when shots were exchanged, according to evidence from earlier hearings in the case.
That also indicated that Adamson might have fired a gun once from outside the apartment and that led Shafer, who was inside, to return fire.
On Tuesday, selecting the jury took most of the court day. Once the jury was chosen, Coles County Circuit Judge Brien O'Brien told the group they could expect to hear attorneys' opening statements and the start of evidence on Wednesday.
Prospective jurors who were excused from serving included a woman who, among other things, said she read news reports about the incident and already thought Shafer was guilty.
The woman also said she would give police officer testimony more weight than that of other witnesses.
She also said she would find fault in Shafer if he didn't testify, though that's not required, and added that her opposition to guns would also prevent her from considering the case fairly.
Another woman excused said she didn't want to take part in a case that led to the death penalty.
That led O'Brien to explain that the death penalty is no longer allowed in Illinois. But the woman still said she thought of a murder case as "two lives lost" and might think about Shafer's possible sentence, which isn't the jury's duty.
Others excused included two women who both said they were threatened at gunpoint and two men who said their feelings about their own past criminal convictions made them believe they couldn't consider the case fairly.
The jurors were selected based on answers to questions from O'Brien and the case's prosecuting and defense attorneys. Forty-two were questioned to select the 12 jurors and two alternates.
State's Attorney Brian Bower and Assistant State's Attorney Rob Scales are the prosecutors and Public Defender Anthony Ortega and Assistant Public Defender Matt Ham are representing Shafer.
Shafer faces three similar but differently phrased murder charges which address possible scenarios related to the shooting.
One charge accuses him of firing a gun with the intent to kill or greatly harm Faires or another person, and another alleges he fired knowing there was a likelihood of death or great harm to another.
The other murder charge alleges Shafer committed another crime, namely aggravated discharge of a firearm, that led to a death. He's also charged with that specific offense, accused of firing in the direction of another person.
There's also a weapons possession charge alleging Shafer couldn't legally have the gun because of earlier felony convictions. He's been jailed since his arrest.
Two other men, Matthew S. Cook and Kevin W. Johnson, were also arrested in connection with the incident for reportedly accompanying Adamson to the apartment building to help confront Shafer.
Both Cook and Johnson later pleaded guilty to reduced charges based on what prosecutors indicated better reflected their actual roles.