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The Buckhorn

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Homicide case enters jury-selection phase

By LAUREN KEENE
McNaughton
Newspapers
WOODLAND — Jury selection began Monday in the trial of William Carl Gardner III, the Sacramento man accused of gunning down his former girlfriend in downtown Winters just weeks before she was scheduled to testify against him in a domestic violence case.
Gardner, 31, was indicted earlier this year on a count of murder with the special circumstances of lying in wait and murder of a witness in connection with the Nov. 18, 2013, death of Leslie Pinkston, who was fatally shot in the head as she sat in her vehicle outside her Railroad Avenue workplace.
If convicted, Gardner faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which also include felony counts of stalking and possession of a firearm by an ex-felon.
Although the special-circumstance allegations qualify Gardner for capital punishment, the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office opted not to seek the death penalty in the case.
Dressed in a red button-down shirt, Gardner wrote on a notepad as the first of several panels of prospective jurors assigned to the high-profile case filed into Yolo Superior Court Judge Stephen Mock’s courtroom Monday morning.
Those not excused for hardships were instructed to fill out a nine-page questionnaire regarding their views on issues likely to be raised during the trial.
Attorneys in the case are expected to complete jury selection by Wednesday, followed by opening statements and testimony from initial witnesses on Thursday. The trial is slated to last through the end of the month, possibly into early November.
Among the witnesses slated to appear in court this week are law-enforcement officers from Las Vegas, where Gardner was apprehended following an hours-long standoff several weeks after Pinkston’s death.
Gardner already was facing criminal charges in Yolo County at the time of the shooting, accused of stalking and threatening the 32-year-old Pinkston in January 2013 at the home she shared with her mother in Winters.
Testimony offered at an evidentiary hearing earlier this month indicated Gardner also had allegedly threatened Pinkston in the weeks before her death, sending her text messages in which he pressured her to help him get the stalking case dismissed.
Mock ruled that the texts — along with incriminating statements Pinkston reportedly made about Gardner to family, friends and law-enforcement officials before she died — will be admissible during the murder trial.
— Reach Lauren Keene at lkeene@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene