ROCKLAND, Maine — A jury of two men and 13 women, three of whom will serve as alternates, will decide over the next two weeks whether a former Camden man tried to kill his wife by allegedly shoving her off a cliff three years ago.
The jury selection process in the trial of Charles Black unfolded slowly at Knox County Superior Court on Monday, stretching from the morning hours until well after the court closed at 4 p.m. Many potential jurors weren’t allowed to leave until proceedings wrapped up around 5:30 p.m.
About 50 potential jurors waited in the courtroom as they were interviewed one by one Monday afternoon. Some read books, others chatted quietly among themselves. The court selected a pool of 34 potential jurors and from that selected 15.
The jury has been asked to return to the courtroom by 1 p.m. Tuesday for the first day of the trial, which should include opening arguments.
Justice Joyce Wheeler is presiding over the trial, which is expected to last two weeks. She told jurors to avoid media accounts of the case and to not talk to each other, lawyers or anyone else about the case.
She also laid down a more unusual rule: She told jurors not to go hike up to Maiden Cliff, where Black is alleged to have tried to thrown his wife to her death. She said she didn’t want jurors doing any of their own research.
Black pleaded not guilty to the July 2011 grand jury indictment of attempted murder, two counts of elevated aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of domestic violence assault.
During most of the jury vetting process, Black sat alone in a wooden chair just outside the courtroom, alternately holding a laptop and a pad of yellow legal paper with notes scrawled on it.
According to the prosecution, Black and his then-wife, Lisa Black, were hiking in Camden Hills State Park in April 2011, when he struck his wife one or more times in the head with a rock, dragged her body to the edge of Maiden Cliff and pushed her over. Charles Black told police he had passed out and fallen forward, striking the back of his wife’s head with his head, according to the police report.
Lisa Black fell a short distance, but then got up and managed to make it down to the bottom of the mountain, where she was spotted by a passing motorist. She was taken to a hospital.
Charles Black was found injured after a subsequent search and arrested a few days later after he was released from Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.
Police records from the time of Black’s arrest indicate that his wife recently had inherited $4 million, and she had told police that her husband was taking money without her permission. She also told officers that her husband had been having an online affair with a former girlfriend.
Black resides in Salt Lake City. He was a resident of Camden at the time of the alleged crime.
BDN writer Stephen Betts contributed to this report.