Attorneys Wading Through Jefferson Jury Pool

Posted June 9, 2009 at 11:18am

The criminal trial of ex-Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) began Tuesday with jury selection, and opening arguments could begin as early as Thursday.“Juries play in the preservation of our rights and liberties as Americans,— Judge T.S. Ellis told a pool of about 100 potential jurors who appeared in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.The jury pool will be reduced to 16 men and women, determined in part by a questionnaire issued to potential jurors Tuesday morning. In addition to queries about previous jury service and employment, Jefferson’s defense team requested the form include a question asking would-be jurors whether they are familiar with “a Congressman who was found to have money in his freezer.— It is unclear whether the final questionnaire, which Ellis ordered to be sealed in court records, contained the question, a reference to the August 2005 raid on Jefferson’s home that uncovered $90,000 in cash in the then-lawmaker’s freezer. But Ellis did raise the query in open court as he described the case to the jury pool.“In this case, the government has alleged that William J. Jefferson, a former Member of Congress, has committed a number of crimes,— Ellis said, and later added: “In some media, this case has been referred to … [as] a large sum of money found in a freezer, that may help you recall it.— Opening arguments in the case could begin as early as Thursday, if jury selection is completed Wednesday. Ellis said it remained to be seen whether jury selection would take longer than a day.Jefferson is charged with 16 counts of violating federal law for allegedly offering and accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to promote business ventures in West African nations.He appeared in court Tuesday, dressed in a gray suit and red tie, accompanied by his daughters. Introduced to the jury pool by his lead attorney, Robert Trout, Jefferson gave a slight smile and nod.