Crime

Larissa Schuster trial set Oct. 15 in L.A. County

The trial of a Clovis biochemist accused of killing her husband and pouring acid on his body is scheduled to begin Oct. 15 in a Los Angeles County courtroom, more than four years after she was arrested.

On Monday, prosecutors, defense attorneys and a Fresno County Superior Court judge began what likely will be a week's worth of discussions on the ground rules for the upcoming trial.

Roger Nuttall, defense attorney for Larissa Schuster, said Monday that the pretrial motions will "help shape the course of the trial."

Schuster, 46, is accused of kidnapping, torturing and killing her husband, Timothy Schuster. The two were in the middle of a bitter divorce when his remains were found in a barrel of acid in Larissa Schuster's rented storage unit in July 2003.

Last month, Judge Wayne Ellison granted a motion to move the trial out of Fresno County because the murder trial of Schuster's co-defendant, James Fagone, had received intense media coverage.

In December, a Fresno County jury found Fagone guilty of murder, rejecting his argument that he was intimidated into joining the gruesome murder plot.

Ellison on Monday said the trial will start Oct. 15 in Department 114 of the Van Nuys West courthouse in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley.

This week, both sides are taking up various motions associated with the trial, which cover everything from media coverage to whether certain potential witnesses will be allowed to remain in the courtroom when they are not on the stand.

One part of Monday's hearing dealt with Timothy Schuster's employment records from Saint Agnes Medical Center.

Nuttall wants them as evidence for the trial. In court, he said he may have an expert testify on "battered person syndrome," and he commented that the evidence request pertains to Larissa Schuster's emotional state during the couple's divorce proceedings.

Ellison made no decision on whether the records will be part of the trial.

The jury pool will be 150, which both Nuttall and prosecutor Dennis Peterson said was sufficient.

On Oct. 15 jurors will fill out questionnaires. By midweek, jurors will come into court for individual questioning, and Ellison hopes to have jurors seated by the end of Oct. 18. Opening arguments would then start the following Monday.

It appears that Fagone will not be called as a witness by either side in the trial, but Nuttall said afterward that he expects Schuster to take the stand in her own defense.

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