Jury selection begins today in Blank trial

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 8, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / March 8, 2000

LAPLACE – The murder trial of Daniel Blank begins today.

Blank’s attorney, Glenn Cortello, and prosecutors with the St. John theBaptist District Attorney’s office will begin the process of selecting a jury to hear evidence in the trial that accuses Blank of brutally stabbing to death 55-year-old Joan Brock in her home in the River Forest subdivision three years ago.

By order of 40th District Judge Sterling Snowdy, the jury is to be selected from citizens of Avoyelles Parish in the town of Marksville. All the publicityof the murder made it unlikely attorneys could select an impartial jury made up of residents of St. John Parish.Blank has already been convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Lillian Phillipe, 71, of Gonzales. That trial was held in Houma in August 1999in order to find an impartial jury.

Blank still faces murder charges for the death of Victor Rossi, 41, of St.

Amant, Barbara Bourgeois, 58, of Paulina, and Sam and Louella Arcuri, 76 and 69, of LaPlace.

The killing spree started in 1996 and ended in 1997 when detectives tracked Blank, an auto mechanic to the town on Onalaska, Texas. When confrontedby detectives, Blank confessed to all six murders in a grisly, detailed, 12- hour videotaped confession.

The videotape was the basis for Blank’s conviction in the Phillipe murder and will be the backbone of the St. John district attorney’s case.In July, Cortello, in a pre-trial motion, asked that the videotape be thrown out as evidence. He argued the confession had be coerced from Blank and thatBlank had not been made aware of his rights. However, Snowdy did not agreeand ordered the videotape to be entered as evidence.

Blank has told the media he thinks he is being used as a scapegoat by local authorities because they needed to pin the six murders on somebody.

When jury selection is complete, the jurors will be transported to St. JohnParish and be sequestered during the entire trial.

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