Jury selected for Padilla trial

An ethnically diverse panel will hear the case against the alleged Al Qaeda operative and two co-defendants. A jury of five blacks, four whites and three Latinos with a broad array of jobs, political leanings and assumptions about terrorism will hear the government’s case against alleged Al Queda operative Jose Padilla. The panel was selected Tuesday after weeks of contentious wrangling among the 15 attorneys representing the government, Padilla and his two co-defendants, with the government and defense teams accusing each other of racial and religious profiling in picking jurors. Padilla, a 36-year-old former Chicago gang member, and two Arabs are accused of conspiring to kill foreign enemies of Islam. The 12 jurors and six alternates will begin hearing testimony Monday in a case expected to last four months and draw witnesses from the intelligence and security communities, including a covert CIA operative planning to testify in disguise. U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke excused dozens of potential jurors during the protracted search for a fair and balanced panel because of the hardships they would endure if separated from their jobs or family obligations each workday through the end of August. Anyone with a scheduled vacation, an ill relative needing attention or a child-care conflict was dismissed, although Cooke said she would not sequester the jury. By court order, the identities of the jurors cannot be made public. The seven men and five women expressed varying degrees of willingness to serve on the panel. A delivery dispatcher in her 30s said her boss was furious that she missed one day last week for the questioning. Another juror, a young insurance adjuster, told Cooke that he and his fiance were getting married next month but he had not planned a honeymoon in case he was needed on the jury. “That’s a young man who really takes his civic responsibilities seriously,” Cooke quipped after a day in which juror after juror asked to be excused for far less momentous occasions. Throughout Tuesday’s protracted use of peremptory challenges – 30 for the government and 36 for lawyers representing Padilla and co-defendants Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi – the attorneys repeatedly objected to each other’s dismissals. Defense attorneys noted the prosecution rejected seven black female jurors in a row, while the government team accused the defense of striking white and Latino men in what they saw as a “pattern of prejudice.” Jurors have a range of incomes, from an unemployed former busboy and a department store makeup artist to a software developer. There is religious diversity as well: Catholics, Baptists, a Seventh-day Adventist and one man who said he was intimately familiar with Jewish issues, although he did not make clear if that was his faith. The ethnicity of the panel was a topic of special contentiousness because Miami’s large Latino community includes exiles and emigres who fled repressive governments in Latin America and tend to cast an uncritical eye on the U.S. criminal justice system. But several of the jurors expressed doubts about the consistency and reliability of government and law enforcement work, disclosing run-ins with the law in individual questioning since jury selection began April 16. “There are a lot of people who are incarcerated who shouldn’t be there because they didn’t commit the crimes they are accused of,” said a young black female juror with several relatives on Miami-area police forces. A 40-ish man who is an Internet company chief financial officer told Cooke he thought the growth of Muslim clerical schools in the Middle East had contributed to a trend toward violence in Islam; but he added that “if you go back throughout history, they were one of the more temperate religions for hundreds of years.” “The war in Iraq is for profit and oil, not because of WMD,” a young Latino college student who works for a cable TV company said of the administration’s reason for invading Iraq. A black man of about 50 who manages a chain of service stations and has a nephew serving in Iraq conceded he might have an inclination to stereotype Muslims but assured Cooke he would seek to be fair. “We’re very pleased with the jury that was selected. I think it is a very diverse panel,” said Linda Moreno, a lawyer hired by Hassoun’s defense team to serve as a jury consultant. Moreno helped win a not guilty verdict from a Tampa jury two years ago in the terrorism case brought against Sami Al-Arian, a professor of computer engineering at the University of South Florida. One of the alternates on the panel was born in Egypt and understands some Arabic, but the only practicing Muslim brought before the lawyers Tuesday was dismissed by the prosecution. Assistant U.S. Atty. John C. Shipley told Cooke the government objected to her service because she had read publications from Yemen, Syria and Iran, which he called “renowned terrorist countries.”