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updated: 11/1/2011 1:19 AM

Jury selection begins in day care death case

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  • Melissa Calusinski of Carpentersville is accused of the 2009 murder of a toddler at a Lincolnshire day care center.

      Melissa Calusinski of Carpentersville is accused of the 2009 murder of a toddler at a Lincolnshire day care center.


The first two jurors, a man and a woman, were selected Monday for the first-degree murder trial of Melissa Calusinski in Lake County circuit court.

Calusinski, 25, of Carpentersville, is accused of the Jan. 14, 2009 slaying of 16-month-old Benjamin Kingan of Deerfield at the former Minee Subee in the Park day care center in Lincolnshire where she worked.

Because of concerns about pretrial publicity, prospective jurors are going through a special process in the case.

Nearly 80 candidates were given a brief orientation on the case Monday by Circuit Judge Daniel Shanes, then were sent out of the courtroom to fill out multi-page questionnaires.

The questionnaires ask for details about prospective jurors' backgrounds and biases, as well as what they have heard or read about the Calusinski case.

Jurors then return to the courtroom individually, rather than in the customary groups of four, to be questioned by the judge and lawyers.

Prosecutors say Calusinski confessed to killing Benjamin by throwing him to the floor when she became upset with rowdy children in the room where she was serving as a teacher's aide.

Defense attorneys claim a physician will testify Benjamin died when he aggravated a pre-existing condition by repeatedly pounding his own head on the floor.

The defense also claims Calusinski's confessions were coerced and lost a motion earlier this year to have them barred from being used against her in court.

Prosecutors respond by saying all the police questioning of Calusinski was video- and tape-recorded, and jurors will be able to decide for themselves if she confessed voluntarily.

Opening statements are expected later this week and parties to the case estimate the trial could last three weeks.

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