Preparations underway for death penalty case of man accused of killing 5 people

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Madison County District Judge Chris Comer held a status conference Thursday in the death penalty case against Christopher Henderson.

Henderson, 44, is charged with killing five people, including two children and his pregnant wife in August of 2015, before setting the house on fire.

The hearing primarily consisted of the logistics of the upcoming capital murder trial. But a number of things remain undecided leading up to June 14 trial date.

Henderson’s defense attorney Bruce Gardner expressed he would like to to sequester the jury for the length of the trial. Judge Comer said he would consider it.

The parties involved in the case cannot agree on how to format the jury questionnaire. But we learned Thursday, the jury pool will consist of 130 people.

Case Background

Henderson is charged along with his first wife, Rhonda Jean Carlson, with the murders of five people. That includes Kristen Henderson, who he was also married to and was nine months pregnant, along with her 8-year-old son, mother, and 1-year-old nephew.

After the killings, investigators say the New Market home was lit on fire.

Can the jury handle the details?

The details in the case led to the discussion of alternate jurors in the case Thursday. Judge Comer said six alternate jurors, as the state requested, seemed excessive. He thinks four might be better.

The defense said it had no feelings either way, but agreed that the evidence in the case could be hard for jurors to digest.

“This is going to be a rough trial for the normal citizen who comes in here who’s never been exposed to these kinds of things,” said Bruce Gardner. “It will be traumatic for some people and we may lose some along the way.”

Judge Comer has scheduled a follow-up status conference for June 1,
that’s just 13 days before the trial is expected to begin.

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