MAYS LANDING — A lot of people know about the 2012 murder of April Kauffman.
Fifty-six potential jurors were excused from the third-floor courtroom Tuesday, where jury selection began for the trial of Ferdinand “Freddy” Augello.
Another 29 were pre-screened, earmarked for the next round, which continues Wednesday morning.
Many of those jurors excused Tuesday said they knew about the case from local and national media. Others were patients of Dr. James Kauffman, or knew April Kauffman, a local businesswoman and veterans advocate. Others knew Augello, a signmaker and former member of the Pagans, an outlaw motorcycle gang.
One juror was excused after telling Superior Court Judge Bernard E. DeLury Jr. that he worked with people who knew April.
“I don’t think I could be,” he replied when DeLury asked him if he could be impartial.
A pool of more than 100 county residents had been summoned to the courthouse.
DeLury scheduled three days to whittle down the pool to a panel of 12 jurors with three alternates.
An officer removed Augello’s shackles after he entered the courtroom.
He wore a gray suit, black-rimmed glasses and had his hair tied back in a ponytail.
He adjusted his tie and collar before the potential jurors were brought into the courtroom.
Augello, 62, of Upper Township, is charged in the murder of April and the attempted murder of Dr. James Kauffman. He’s also charged with leading an opioid drug ring out of Dr. James Kauffman’s medical practice.
Kauffman, who allegedly hired a hitman to kill his wife, died of an apparent suicide in January in his Hudson County jail cell.
Francis Mulholland, the hitman authorities believe killed April, died in October 2013 from a drug overdose in his home in the Villas section of Lower Township.
After detailing the charges against Augello, DeLury explained how the selection would work.
He would ask a series of questions to weed out jurors that couldn’t be fair and impartial. The process is called voir dire — from the French, “to see to speak.”
DeLury said that the process would be conducted “a little differently than usual,” with groups of five jurors being brought into the courtroom at a time for questioning.
“This will help us move jurors around in a more orderly fashion, and it will spare the larger group from having to remain here in the courtroom for an extended period,” DeLury said.
The process would also allow officials to keep jurors apart from the public, witnesses and the media, the judge explained.
Questions included if the potential jurors knew anyone in the case, from Augello to witnesses to lawyers, if they had previous knowledge of the case and if they had ever served on a jury or been a witness before.
One question asked about the potential juror’s knowledge of the Pagans Motorcycle Club; Augello has admitted that he was a past president of the club, and several of his co-defendants, who have since become witnesses for the state, are alleged members.
One juror was excused after he referred to the Pagans as an “outlaw club.”
When DeLury asked him why he said that, he replied that they “commit illegal activities as well as ride motorcycles.”
The man said that he had seen it on TV and had learned about them in psychology courses.
All five of the first set of jurors were excused: four for knowing Augello, the Kauffmans, a witness, or for following the media coverage, while another juror said that her nephew had died from drugs and she wouldn’t be able to be impartial.
Others were excused because sitting on the jury would present a financial hardship due to missing work, and a few had vacation plans.
As part of the next phase of jury selection process, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy, who represents the state, and Mary Linehan, Augello’s attorney, can request that a juror is removed without stating a reason.
Both the prosecution and the defense have a limited number of these strikes, but that amount has not been disclosed.
Jury selection will continue Wednesday morning, with opening statements slated for Monday.
The trial is expected to take three weeks.