Trial starts in child sex assault case

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Seven Shawnee County residents summoned Monday to serve as jurors in the trial of a man charged with sexually assaulting juveniles had had friends or relatives who had been sexually assaulted, some of whom were children.

Aurelio Renato Marmolejo, 39, is charged with:
-- Two counts of rape of a child younger than 14 by an individual 18 years old or older.
-- Two counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child (lewd fondling with a child younger than 14 by an offender older than 18.
-- One count of misdemeanor promoting obscenity to minors.

One victim of a rape and an aggravated indecent liberties assault was 11 years old, according to court records, and a second victim of a rape and an aggravated indecent liberties assault occurred when that victim was 11 to 13 years old. The promoting obscenity charge occurred when the second victim was 11 to 13 years old.

Jury selection started Monday in Shawnee County District Court.

Senior Judge Gunnar Sundby is hearing the case of Marmolejo. Sundby served as a Leavenworth County District Court judge for 20 years.

Marmolejo was charged in December 2017 with the five offenses.

During jury selection on Monday, Shawnee County Deputy District Attorney Brett Watson told prospective jurors that Marmolejo is charged with sexual misconduct with children.

Knowing the charges Marmolejo faces, do members of the jury pool have too much bias to hear the case? Watson asked he prospective jurors.

Four held up their hands.

Given the age and gender of her own children, "I don't feel I can be impartial," one woman said.

"I would like to think that I could decide the case based on the evidence, (but) I'm not sure I could," a woman said.

In answer to another question, seven prospective jurors said they had friends or relatives who were victims of sexual assaults.

One victim was a 3-year-old brother of the prospective juror, one prospective juror said her two aunts were sexually assaulted by the father of the two aunts, and a woman called for jury duty said she was sexually molested when she was 5 years old by a male relative, but she didn't realize it was a problem until she was in her 20s.

To avoid embarrassment, several prospective jurors approached the judge's bench to tell the judge, prosecutor and defense attorney about instances of friends who were sexually assaulted.

Some remained in the jury pool, and others were dismissed from jury duty.

One woman said a family member was accused of sexually assaulting someone, he was tried, and he was acquitted, she said.

Jury selection had a light moment.

Watson, the prosecutor, asked a prospective juror a question.

"No, your honor," the would-be juror answered, using the the title reserved for a judge.

"Not yet," Watson immediately answered, and the roughly 70 prospective jurors laughed.

Jury selection was to resume after the lunch break.