COVID-19 presents jury challenges for man accused of killing 5 in New Market in 2015

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala – A case that began six years ago in Madison County is finally heading to trial. Christopher Henderson, who was married to two women at the same time, is charged in one of the most gruesome killings in the county’s history.

Henderson is charged with capital murder for allegedly killing his second wife Kristen Henderson, their unborn child, her son, mother, and nephew. After the killings, he is accused of lighting the home New Market home on fire. Henderson’s co-defendant in the case is his other wife, Rhonda Carlson, who is also charged with capital murder in this case. Henderson is facing the death penalty in this case.

Henderson’s trial was originally set for June of last year but was delayed due to the pandemic. A pre-trial conference was held Monday ahead of the new June trial date.

Henderson was present in court.

Jury selection was the main topic of discussion. Henderson’s attorney, Bruce Gardner, tells News 19 due to the pandemic, they are going to need a much larger jury pool.

Judge Chris Comer said they plan to impanel 125 people for the jury and he acknowledged the challenge, saying, they have never dealt with trying to gather that many people together while keeping them separated.

Courtroom discussion focused on where they could safely provide questionnaires to as many potential jurors as possible. That questionnaire is currently 20 pages long.

“The biggest thing is people’s attitudes toward the death penalty, the ultimate punishment to be imposed and those are very substantive sometimes. We’re working around toward getting what we need done though,” Gardner said.

The trial is set for June 14. Prosecutors say they expect the trial to last at least three weeks. Attorneys will meet with the judge every two weeks or so to prepare for the long-awaited hearing.

Rhonda Carlson, the co-defendant in this case, has cooperated with the state and plans to testify in Henderson’s trial.

Carlson’s trial date was also pushed back due to COVID-19. Her new trial date has not been set yet, but the prosecutor in her case told us they plan to try her after Henderson.

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