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Trial of Julissa Thaler, mother accused of killing son, is underway

Julissa Thaler is accused of shooting her 6-year-old son Eli Hart and placing him in the trunk of her vehicle. Jury selection is set to begin later Monday.

MINNEAPOLIS — Jury selection is expected to get underway Monday in the trial of a Mound woman accused of killing her young son last May.  

Julissa Thaler is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of 6-year-old Eli Hart. Prosecutors say Thaler murdered Eli with a shotgun, then placed his body in the trunk of her car. Police pulled Thaler over on a traffic stop early the morning of May 20 after noticing the vehicle had the rear window shot out and was missing a front tire. 

Inside the trunk police found Eli's body and the shotgun they say was used to kill him. 

During pre-trial motions Monday, Thaler's legal team requested that she be allowed to leave the courtroom when graphic photos are being shown. Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Dan Allard said in court that the crime scene photos are the worst he's ever seen, and told Judge Jay Quam the prosecution will be careful about only showing jurors what is necessary. Allard also said prosecutors will not show Eli's autopsy photos in court. 

Judge Quam ruled against Thaler's motion. 

Allard also informed the court that he plans on introducing internet search evidence he believes will prove premeditation, along with an insurance policy Thaler purchased on her son. 

KARE 11's Lou Raguse is in court for Monday's proceedings. He Tweeted that when Thaler entered the courtroom she stared at the family of Eli's father, Tory Hart, for a long period of time. Prosecutors say a custody battle between Thaler and Hart is the motive for Eli's murder. 

In August Tory Hart filed a lawsuit against Dakota County and three social workers, claiming they are responsible for failing to protect his son from Thaler despite a number of red flags concerning her mental health. Court documents allege that the county removed Eli from his mother's care before returning him 10 days before the boy's death. 

Questions were raised about Thaler's fitness to stand trial after she refused to cooperate with a court-appointed psychiatrist, but in September she was found competent to stand trial.

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