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Jury selection begins Monday for Jacksonville man charged with murdering his pregnant niece

Iyana Sawyer was pregnant with her uncle's child, prosecutors say, when she was last seen in 2018. Johnathan Quiles has pleaded not guilty to her murder.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jury selection begins Monday in the death penalty trial of a Jacksonville man accused of murdering his 16-year-old niece prosecutors say was pregnant with his child.

Iyana Sawyer was last seen at Terry Parker High School in 2018, according to investigators. Her uncle, Johnathan Quiles, has pleaded not guilty to her murder. Quiles is also charged separately with raping another young relative.

More than 110 people will report to the Duval County Courthouse for jury selection, which is expected to take two days. During the trial, prosecutors are expected to show dozens of video clips. The defense said there were 30 thousand videos.

"There's numerous, mainly the Ace Pick A Part videos, showing the defendant's departure during the work day," prosecutors said in court last week.

That's why Quiles' defense attorneys tried to delay his case by a week. The judge denied that request, saying he couldn't believe the defense were talking about it three days before a death penalty case.

Prosecutors believe Quiles killed Sawyer because, they say, she was pregnant with his child. Quiles confessed the crime to his brother, according to police reports. Police reports say he shot her in the chest. Investigators say her body was never found.

Quiles was going to fire his attorneys, but last month he told the judge his legal matters were out of his field of expertise.

"I assumed that by filing this motion there would be questions that I could ask directly to the people that's against me, but that's not the case," Quiles said in court. 

Last month, Quiles' attorney argued he should be tried and sentenced under a former state law requiring unanimous jury verdicts in death cases.

COVID-19 delayed the case, which was originally under a different judge. 

The trial and potential penalty phase of the case are expected to take two weeks.

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