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More than three years after the execution-style slayings of three men in a Greece apartment, the men accused of the killings are scheduled to face trial in U.S. District Court in Rochester.
Jury selection in the trial of Richard Emanuel Anderson, 49, Andrew Wright, 43, and Aston Johnson, 41, is scheduled to begin Monday in a trial expected to last two months or more. More than 100 prospective jurors have been summoned.
The sweeping investigation, led by the Greece Police Department, took investigators across the country. The three men � all of them Jamaicans living in the country illegally � were arrested in Arizona in March 2010 in a house with 229 pounds of marijuana.
The three are accused of killing Robert Moncriffe, 29, Christopher Green, 40, and Mark Wisdom, 38, on March 9, 2010 in what was then Holyoke Park Apartments. The accused have pleaded not guilty.
One victim was found shot in the head with his hands, ankles and mouth bound with duct tape. Another was shot in the back, neck and head. The third was shot in the shoulder and chest.
A separate firearm was used in each shooting, police reports show.
"It's going to be a long involved trial," said attorney Peter Pullano, who is representing Johnson. "We've just got to take every witness one at a time, one day at a time."
"How do you eat an elephant?" Pullano said. "One bite at a time."
Prosecutors say they may call close to 100 witnesses in the trial, court papers show.
Indicted on federal murder charges, the three accused men could have faced execution under federal criminal laws. However, the U.S. Department of Justice decided in 2011 not to seek the death penalty if any of the three are convicted.
Before that, defense lawyers had to amass volumes of historical information about the accused to present to the Justice Department in a bid to eliminate the death penalty as possible punishment.
"It's the same case," Pullano said about the fact that the defendants no longer face execution. "We're preparing the same way."
Barbara Burns, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said prosecutors would not comment because jury selection is scheduled for Monday.
Drug deals gone bad?
When Greece police entered the apartment where the three victims were found, officers quickly located the signs of an active drug trade: $20,000 wrapped in $1,000 bundles, 17 cellphones, and scales.
None of the three victims had identification.
Ultimately, police determined, marijuana trafficking was at the root of the violence. The three defendants are accused of trafficking more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana over a two-year period.
Authorities allege that the victims imported marijuana by mail from the accused, and sold it across the area. However, authorities claim in court papers, the men living in Greece sometimes "would short" the payments, sending less money than the suppliers should have received.
The three men were likely killed because of the dispute, police allege.
The investigation triggered searches in Arizona, California and Ohio. Multiple federal, state and local police agencies joined the Greece police in the investigation.
The prospective witness list includes officials from across the country, including agents with the FBI, Border Patrol, and U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
One prospective witness may testify about the "sale of guns to members of the conspiracy ... one of which was used in the murders," court records show.
Authorities allege that they have ample evidence � from hotel videos to travel records � that the three defendants were in Rochester when the slayings occurred.
Other evidence likely places two of the three at the apartment, authorities allege.
Bryan Konoski, the New York City-attorney representing Wright, has contended in court papers that prosecutors do not "have any forensic evidence whatsoever placing Mr. Wright inside of the apartment."
Anderson, who also faces a state murder charge, is represented by the Federal Public Defender's Office.
Defense lawyers have sought that information about the illegal immigration status of the accused not be allowed at trial.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andy Rodriguez, one of the prosecutors in the case, said at a pre-trial conference Friday that the information will likely come out, as well as evidence that some of the victims lived in the United States illegally.
"It's not out intent to emphasize it but it may come up in testimony," Rodriguez said.
U.S. District Judge Charles Siragusa decided that part of the questioning of prospective jurors will include questions about whether they have preconceived impressions of individuals living in the country illegally.