Michael Rafferty leaves the courthouse in Woodstock

Rafferty pleads not guilty to killing Stafford

Seven people were chosen Wednesday to serve on a jury in the trial of a man accused in the death of eight-year-old Victoria Stafford.

LONDON, Ont. — Seven people were chosen Wednesday to serve on a jury in the trial of a man accused in the death of eight-year-old Victoria Stafford.

Michael Rafferty, 31, was formally arraigned Wednesday and pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and kidnapping.

Dressed in a three-piece suit, Rafferty stood looking out at the jury pool and said he was ready for his trial.

“That is correct,” he said as his pleas were read back to him.

Tori disappeared while on her way home from school in Woodstock, Ont., on April 8, 2009, and her body was found three months later.

Terri-Lynne McClintic, now 21, has already been convicted of first-degree murder in the girl’s death.

Five women and two men have been selected so far as lawyers seek to choose a jury of 12 people and two alternates.

Hundreds of people were called for jury selection in Rafferty’s trial, and all but 116 were excused Monday and Tuesday for various financial, medical and travel reasons. The remaining 116 were organized into five groups, with two groups facing the second stage of jury selection Wednesday. The last three groups return Thursday.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Heeney explained to the assembled potential jurors Wednesday morning that they would each be asked a series of pre-determined questions.

Crown and defence lawyers get a set number of challenges, which they can use to reject a potential juror without giving a reason.

The trial is expected to start Monday if all jurors and alternates can be selected this week.

Potential jurors have been told the trial is expected to last between 2 1/2 and three months, possibly extending into June. Most weeks the trial will sit Tuesdays to Fridays. Because of the time commitment and the nature of the case, Heeney raised the amount of compensation jurors will get.

In most trials in Ontario jurors are paid $40 a day if they sit longer than 10 days, and from the 50th day onward they get $100 a day. For this trial jurors will receive $40 a day from the outset, rising to $100 a day starting on the 25th day.

During the trial the jury is set to visit the site where Tori’s body was found.

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