Jury selection starts in the Kevin Coe trial - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Jury selection starts in the Kevin Coe trial

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SPOKANE, Wash. - Jury selection began Monday in the civil commitment trial of Kevin Coe, who the state is attempting to keep in prison even though he has completed a 25-year prison sentence for rape.

More than 600 potential jurors were called for what is expected to be a long and sensational trial. That will be whittled down to a dozen people who will decide if Coe suffers from mental defects that prevent him from controlling his sexual desires.

The defense essentially wanted to shut the door on the individual questioning process that begins on Monday, and for good reason according to the judge. Some potential jurors may have problems answering the questions that are personal in nature. Ultimately, she decided to let the jurors decide.

Attorney's for Kevin Coe say that potential jurors in this case will be asked questions unlike many other trials, questions involving intimate details of their pasts. The Attorney General's Office, arguing Thursday by phone from Seattle, said that while caution should exercised, private questioning should only be offered to jurors that specifically ask for it.

The judge agreed with both sides to a certain degree, saying 30 percent of a normal jury pool would have some sort of connection to sexual assault or mental health issues in their lives, but only they should decide if they wanted to talk about it in private.

Judge O'Connor said she would consider hearing in private some of the answers if jurors request it.

The mental health issues jurors will be asked about are relevant in this case because the hearing is basically about assessing Coe's mental health to decide whether or not he will re-offend.

Authorities believe Coe is the so-called South Hill Rapist, who is suspected of more than 40 rapes that terrorized the Spokane area in the late 1970s and early 1980s. But Coe maintains he is innocent.

He served time in prison for the only rape that stood up under appeals.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)