MANATEE -- A jury of seven women and one man was selected Monday in the manslaughter trial of a 23-year-old man charged in the fatal shooting of his roommate.
Two women, of the eight chosen, are alternate jurors.
Kyle Guessford is charged with manslaughter with a firearm in the fatal June 7, 2014, shooting of his roommate Austin Brunson, 22, in the apartment they shared in the 2700 block of 50th Avenue West in Bradenton. If convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison.
Initially, Brunson's death was considered an accident by investigators, but a State Attorney's Office review determined Guessford was negligent when he pointed a loaded gun at Brunson and pulled the trigger.
"While there was no consciousness to do harm, the negligence was gross and flagrant," wrote Manatee County Sheriff's Office's Dan Dickerman in the arrest report. "Kyle is the owner of the gun and has a duty to use due care when handling the firearm. Pointing the gun and pulling the trigger without first checking the chamber is a clear negligent act. This act did cause the death of Austin Brunson."
According to a report, Guessford told investigators it was an accident. He said he and Brunson were friends since high school and that there were no problems between the two of them.
Guessford, who is being represented by Brett D. McIntosh, of Sarasota-based firm McIntosh Law, has been out on $25,000 bond while awaiting trial and living in North Carolina.
Senior Circuit Judge Stephen Dakan presided over the jury selection for Manatee Circuit Judge Diana Moreland.
Attorneys' questions for the pool focused greatly on firearms and the concept of culpable negligence.
A potential male juror seated in the back row on the right side of the courtroom said he owned multiple firearms. Asked if he felt that would affect him from being a fair and impartial juror in this case, the man said "probably not."
Assistant State Attorney Dickey Hough, the main prosecutor on the case, pressed
the man for clarification.
"I hate stupid gun owners, that's all I can say," the man responded.
He later expanded on his perspective with McIntosh.
"They need to know, first of all, the consequences of what they're doing," he said of fellow gun owners. "If you fire that weapon, you will most likely be scrutinized, prosecuted ... you will be under the microscope for it."
Another man said he was "totally against" firearms and that only policemen or military should possess them.
Hough asked about the difference between simple negligence and culpable negligence.
"Negligence is failing to exercise due care towards others around you," he said, using the example of someone slipping and falling from a wet floor in a store. "Culpable negligence is like negligence, but it's to a greater degree."
McIntosh thanked the jury pool during his questioning.
"Thank you for being here on what is probably the most important week of this young man's life," the attorney said. "It's important that we have a conversation and speak to each other because we need to know about the people who are going to be sitting on this case."
McIntosh asked the pool if anyone has someone close to them who has had a negative experience with guns. One man said someone he knows fired a gun inside a home without realizing it was loaded. No one was hurt in the incident.
"What if someone would have been struck by the bullet?" McIntosh asked.
"It would have been devastating," the man responded, "but at the same time, it would have been an accident."
The trial resumes at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.