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Why finding an impartial jury for trial of slain Sheriff's deputy could pose challenges

Jury selection is underway for the murder trial of John Williams, but some wonder how long it will take to find an objective jury.

PORTLAND, Maine — It's one of the highest profile cases Maine has seen in years -- the murder trial of John Williams.

He is accused of shooting and killing Somerset County police deputy Eugene Cole in April 2018.

RELATED: Maine remembers Cpl. Eugene Cole, one year after his death

Due to its publicity, the trial was moved out of Somerset County and into Cumberland County. Jury selection began Monday morning, but many still wonder how difficult it will be to find an objective jury.

"It is possible, but it is challenging," Cumberland County District Attorney Jonathon Sahrbeck said.

Sahrbeck has handled hundreds of criminal cases over the years. He says each one comes with unique challenges, especially in the age of technology.

"Social media and the 24 hour news cycle have really changed the game when it comes to picking a jury," Sahrbeck said. "It's much more difficult to find people who haven’t heard of the facts."

More difficult but not impossible. Sahrbeck says even if potential jurors know about Williams' case, it doesn't mean they won't be picked. 

"Some people may have already heard of the facts of a case but may not have formed an opinion," Sahrbeck said. "Which would make them still able to be fair and impartial when hearing the facts."

To make sure they are, court officials are expected spend hours this week combing through more than 300 possible jurors. They won't stop until they have found 12 jurors and an additional two alternates. It's a tedious task, but Sahrbeck says the process is crucial.

"Judges and prosecutors and defense attorneys will have to go through and speak to all the possible jurors to make sure that they have not formed an opinion," Sahrbeck said. "It’s very important to seat a jury that is going to listen to the facts and apply the law because the defendant does have a right to a fair trial."

The actual trial for Williams is scheduled to begin next Monday.