Jury members selected for murder trial

A jury is slated to be in place by the end of today for a highly publicized B.C. Supreme Court trial with significant North Okanagan ties.

Jury selection began Wednesday in Vancouver in the case of five men believed to be associated with an organized crime gang referred to by RCMP as the Greeks.

The five men – Pete Manalakos, Jr., Dale Sipes, Sheldon O’Donnell, Leslie Podolski and Douglas Brownell – are facing murder- and drug-related charges in connection with a string of homicides in the North Okanagan in 2004 and 2005.

“Selecting the jury is a slow, long process, but they want to make sure they get the right people and take their time doing it,” said RCMP Sgt. Al Haslett, who has been one of the top investigators with the case from the outset.

“There’s limited space so they can only get so many people into the courthouse. They’re taking them in in different states. It’s a process the sheriffs have and it works pretty effectively.”

Haslett said five people were chosen during the opening day of jury selection Wednesday, and that lawyers hoped to have the 12-person jury in place by the end of today.

The trial, which Haslett anticipates could take up to a year to argue, is slated to begin May 9.

“Everybody’s been looking forward to getting this started,” said Haslett. “We’ve been working at this upward of five years.”

The accused were in the courthouse for the start of jury selection.