Lee Evans is representing himself. He was one of two suspects charged in 2010 with the murders in what had been one of New Jersey's longest running cold cases.
The other, Philander Hampton, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 years in prison earlier this month. He is expected to testify against Evans.
Authorities say the men lured the teens to an abandoned house in Newark with the promise of odd jobs, locked them in and then burned it down, allegedly in retribution for stolen drugs.
The courtroom is filled with family members of the five victims, whose bodies were never recovered.