Candidates Offer Excuses as Jury Pick Starts for Trade Center Blast
Sep. 15, 1993
NEW YORK (AP) _ A woman who works at the World Trade Center and a man who lost friends in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 were among potential jurors excused from the trial of four men charged in the blast at the twin towers.
''I feel that has prejudiced my view of terrorist matters,'' said the only prospective juror to admit bias, a 1989 Syracuse University graduate who said a childhood buddy and several other friends died in the 1988 bombing of Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The attack was blamed on Libyan terrorists.
Six people were killed and more than 1,000 injured when a bomb went off in the parking garage beneath the 110-story towers Feb. 26. Four Muslim fundamentalists are on trial in attack. Jury selection began Tuesday.
In a back room of the heavily guarded courthouse, just blocks away from the barricaded Trade Center, U.S. District Judge Kevin Duffy questioned - and dismissed - all 26 of the first 47 potential jurors he selected from the vast pool of nearly 5,000 candidates summoned in order to make sure an unbiased jury could be seated. Duffy was to begin interviewing the remaining 21 today.
Duffy told the prospective jurors that he doubted he could find anyone who had not heard of the case even ''if I went to a monastery.''
Transcripts of Tuesday's closed-door interviews, identifying each prospective juror by number, were released afterward.
''I work at the World Trade Center. I was there the day of the blast,'' one woman said.
Other jurors gave a variety of reasons why they could not serve. One man said his son worked at the Trade Center. A handyman in his 60s feared losing the few jobs he could get, a man in his 70s complained of back trouble and another said he had a pregnant wife.
''I am a Rastafarian. It is totally against my religious background to be judgmental in any way,'' a college student told Duffy.
On trial are Egyptian-born Mahmud Abouhalima, 33, the alleged mastermind of the attack; 25-year-old Mohammed Salameh, a Jordanian citizen who allegedly rented the van that carried the explosives into the basement parking garage; Palestinian chemical engineer Nidal A. Ayyad, 25, a naturalized American who prosecutors say had the technical know-how for the attack; and Ahmad Ajaj, 27, a Palestinian who was arrested entering the country in 1992 with a bogus passport and bomb-making books.
The defendants are charged with conspiracy and could get life in prison without parole. Two other suspects are fugitives, and a seventh man has been severed from the trial for reasons unclear.
Jury selection is expected to take weeks.
Duffy reminded the jury candidates that this trial is focused on the Trade Center bombing, though some of the suspects have been named as unindicted co- conspirators in a related case. It accuses 15 men of scheming to overthrow the U.S. government with murders, kidnappings, bombings and assassinations.