Jury set for trial of Madalina Cojocari’s stepfather

CHARLOTTE — The 12 jurors have been selected for the trial of Christopher Palmiter, the stepfather of missing Cornelius girl Madalina Cojocari.

Madalina disappeared at age 11 in November 2022.

In April, Palmiter pleaded not guilty to failure to report the disappearance of a child. Madalina’s mother, Diana Cojocari, pleaded guilty to the same charge on Monday and was released from jail the next day.


A motion from Palmiter’s defense team theorizes that Diana was trying to flee the country with Madalina, with help from her mother and her cousin.

The defense demanded access to more than a dozen pieces of evidence they allege the state is withholding from them. They requested more discovery and time to review and prepare for trial, and also asked that the case be dismissed entirely. But a judge denied that motion Tuesday, saying the trial must continue as scheduled on Wednesday.

Jury selection

Jury selection started Wednesday and it took three days for attorneys to make their choices. No cameras were allowed to record out of respect of for potential juror anonymity.

At one point, the judge discussed whether or not Madalina’s mother could be called to the stand during the trial. Palmiter’s defense team said they already sent a subpoena to Diana Cojocari requiring she testify.

Cojocari’s lawyer appeared in court Wednesday saying if the judge permitted her to be called to the stand, she would likely plead the Fifth on most, if not all, questions.

While the judge did not make a final decision, he did say he is currently likely to allow Palmiter’s defense team to call her to the stand.

As far as the jury itself, potential jurors were questioned starting on Wednesday to see if they will be able to be fair and impartial. The court started with about a dozen of them, calling them one by one to the courtroom to ask if they had heard anything about this case in the news or had any prior knowledge about Madalina Cojocari’s disappearance.

Some of the broad questions were if they were familiar with Bailey Middle School, where Madalina was a student, or the Cornelius neighborhood she lived in, and if any of the potential jurors were parents themselves.

Finding 12 people out of the 54 currently in the jury pool who don’t have a prior opinion on the case has taken three days. The judge estimated the entire trial likely won’t be wrapped until the end of next week.

By Friday, the 12 jurors for the case had been set. Attorneys selected 11 men and one woman. Seven of the men are dads.

One of the things Palmiter’s defense team told jurors Thursday is that mental illness may be brought up in this trial.

The assistant district attorney said he expected jury selection to take longer than the trial itself. He said the state will likely take a day to a day and a half to present their case.

Attorneys selected their final juror on Friday as well as their two alternates. Opening arguments are expected to begin by the afternoon.

(WATCH BELOW: Madalina Cojocari’s mother pleads guilty to failing to report her disappearance)

Hunter Sáenz

Hunter Sáenz, wsoctv.com

Hunter is a reporter for Channel 9.

Eli Brand

Eli Brand, wsoctv.com

Eli is a reporter for WSOC-TV.

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