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Wendy’s massacre trial begins with jury selection

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The trial of the accused mastermind of the Wendy’s massacre officially opened Tuesday with 600 potential jurors being marched into the courtroom of State Supreme Court Judge Steven Fisher.

John Taylor, 38, of Lefrak City is charged with the execution-style murder of five employees at a Wendy’s restaurant in Flushing on May 24, 2000 and could face the death penalty if convicted.

Taylor was absent at the beginning of jury selection this week. Fisher never mentioned his name during proceedings and spoke little of the trial in front of the potential jurors, who were herded into the Kew Gardens courtroom 150 at a time.

“I will, as time goes on, tell you more about the case,” Fisher said. “Once the case gets started, I think you will find it an important, interesting and even challenging case.”

Taylor is the second person to go on trial for the killings. In February 2001, Craig Godineaux, 32, of Jamaica pleaded guilty to shooting three of the victims and two others who survived.

Godineaux is currently serving a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Queens District Attorney Richard Brown elected not to purse the death penalty against him after reviewing a test that showed the defendant’s I.Q. ranked in the lower 1 percent of the population.

In such a highly publicized case, finding a jury acceptable both to the defense and prosecution was expected to take as long as two months.

In Tuesday’s proceedings, Fisher warned the potential jurors the trial could require a serious time commitment.

“This will be a relatively long trial,” he said.

Fisher said the trial probably would last about five weeks once jury selection is completed.

Due to the expected length of the trial, the judge passed out a 19-question survey to jurors asking them whether or not the proceedings would present a hardship.

“Please consider this jury service, much like voting, which people are doing today, as a crucially important civic duty,” Fisher said.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 141.

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