Death penalty trial could begin Friday

LAWRENCEVILLE -- After a laborious jury selection process, Gwinnett's first death penalty trial in seven years is expected to begin Friday, prosecutors said.

The process of whittling down potential jurors in the quadruple-murder trial of Richard Ringold began Oct. 1. Attorneys will begin striking Friday morning from a panel of 55 qualified jurors before swearing in 12, plus alternates.

"We anticipate opening statements and some evidence tomorrow," Chief Assistant District Attorney Dan Mayfield said Thursday.

Attorneys on both sides will strike 15 potential jurors each, leaving the panel of 12 and roughly a dozen alternates. The trial is expected to consume several weeks, with the state calling about 30 witnesses in the initial phase.

The qualification process weeds out people not entitled for legal reasons to sit on juries, or whom judges exclude for other reasons.

District Attorney Danny Porter is spearheading the prosecution. Ringold is represented by attorneys from the Georgia Capital Defenders Office.

Prosecutors believe Ringold, 47, was the lone shooter in a domestic rampage at his girlfriend's Lawrenceville home that killed four in August 2009.

The victims included Ringold's girlfriend, Atania Butler, 28, her 11-year-old daughter, Rico Zimmerman, 19, and Lakeisha Parker, 30. All four were shot execution-style, following an argument between Ringold and Butler in the home's front yard, detectives said at the time.

Ringold is also accused of shooting Butler's 4-year-old daughter in the shoulder. She survived, as did an uninjured woman who fled to a home down the street and called 911, police said.

According to Georgia law, a jury must reach a unanimous verdict for Ringold to be sentenced to death or life without parole. His case joins two other pending death-penalty cases in Gwinnett.

Gwinnett's last death-penalty trial spanned two months from jury selection to verdict in 2005.