Opening Arguments Now Scheduled For Nov. 9
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ A federal judge on Tuesday delayed opening arguments in the cocaine- smuggling trial of Carlos Lehder Rivas until Nov. 9 but said he would finish jury selection next week.
U.S. District Judge Howell W. Melton told attorneys he plans to hold a hearing to remove potential jurors for cause next Monday. If at least 48 potential jurors remain, Melton said he will hold a hearing the next day so that attorneys can seat the jury of 12 and six alternates.
If challenges reduce the pool to fewer than 48, another pool of potential jurors would have to be called in and qualified, further delaying the start of the trial.
Melton gave U.S. Attorney Robert Merkle and defense attorneys Edward R. Shohat, Jose Quinon and Stephen Weinbaum until Friday to submit a list of the jurors they will seek to eliminate for cause.
Jury selection continued Tuesday.
Lehder, a reputed Colombian drug lord, is charged with conspiracy, cocaine importation, operating a continuing criminal enterprise and eight counts of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. If convicted, he faces life in prison plus 165 years and forfeiture of his assets in the Bahamas.
Lehder, 38, is charged in a 1981 indictment with smuggling 3.3 tons of cocaine from Colombia to Normans Cay in the Bahamas and on to airports in Georgia and North Florida in 1979 and 1980.
He is accused in a separate Miami indictment of being one of the leaders of the violent Medellin cartel, a Colombian organization said to be responsible for 80 percent of the cocaine smuggled into the United States.