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RENO, Nev. (AP) — A jury was selected Monday for the murder trial for an elderly property owner who says he was acting in self-defense when he fatally shot an unarmed trespasser in a case that brought attention to Nevada's "stand-your-ground" law.
Prosecutors maintain Wayne Burgarello was acting out of revenge, not self-defense, last year when he armed himself with two handguns, entered an abandoned duplex he owns in Sparks, and opened fire on two trespassers.
Nevada law allows property owners who fear for their lives to use deadly force but not if they are the initial aggressor.
KOLO-TV in Reno reported the jury consists of eight men and six women, including two alternates. A total of 106 prospective jurors had been summoned.
Washoe District Judge Patrick Flanagan expects the trial to last two weeks.
The Rev. Howard Dotson, a former Sparks minister and friend of Devine's family, has said he hopes the case sends a signal to gun owners.
"People cannot hide behind 'stand-your-ground' laws to commit premeditated murder," said Dotson, now an advocate for crime victims in Minnesota. "No one is entitled to play judge, jury and executioner."
Burgarello, 74, a retired school teacher, does not deny shooting Devine and 29-year-old Janai Wilson on Feb. 13, 2014. Devine was shot five times and Wilson three times. She is expected to testify at the trial.
Wilson told police that she and Devine were asleep on a makeshift bed on the floor in the duplex. Burgarello yelled and started shooting when Devine raised up on one elbow, she said.
She acknowledged the two had been injecting methamphetamine and were trying to establish squatter's rights at the address that she listed on her Nevada driver's license.
Defense lawyer Theresa Ristenpart has said Burgarello may have mistaken a flashlight found next to Devine's body for a gun.
"He heard a man's voice that sounded aggressive and mean," she said. "He reacted to a hand coming up in a movement like a gun, and perceived there was a gun."
Burgarello has said he had problems before with break-ins and graffiti at the duplex in a working-class neighborhood just east of Reno.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Bruce Hahn said Burgarello made statements to neighbors and police earlier suggesting he was ready to take the law into his own hands.
"Cody Devine was not a criminal who deserved to die," Dotson has said. "All Burgarello had to do was call 911 to have the suspected trespassers arrested."
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