Work in Sports
Narrowing the pool
Jury selection begins in murder trial of Ray Lewis
Posted: Tuesday May 16, 2000 12:03 AM
ATLANTA (AP) -- A Superior Court Judge has started the process of winnowing 136 potential jurors down to the 12 people and two alternates who will hear the murder trial of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. The jury selection started Monday -- Lewis' 25th birthday -- and was to continue Tuesday.
Lewis entered the courtroom half an hour before the other two co-defendants, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting. Neither Oakley nor Sweeting spoke to the NFL star as they came in.
The three are charged in the Jan. 31 stabbing deaths of Jacinth "Shorty" Baker, 21, and Richard Lollar, 24, during a brawl following a post-Super Bowl party on Jan. 31.
Defense attorneys tried to identify the potential jurors who might be predisposed to convict their clients.
Ed Garland, Lewis' lawyer, asked the jury pool if anyone had negative opinions about professional athletes. Bruce Harvey, who represents Oakley, tried to ferret out any bias against criminal defense lawyers.
Before the proceeding began, prosecutors and defense attorneys had agreed to get rid of 42 potential jurors based on answers they gave Friday on a written questionnaire. Judge Alice D. Bonner immediately sent those people home.
Defense attorneys wanted another 20 people removed from the jury pool based on their questionnaire answers. Bonner eliminated five of those.
One potential juror wrote on her questionnaire, "I tend to think they are guilty, but I don't know all the facts." That was enough for Bonner to remove her from the jury pool. Others were removed for medical reasons or to care for sick family members.
Bonner did not immediately dismiss a potential juror who wrote, "Professional sports figures should not receive special treatment." However, she said she could reconsider each individual juror later.
Only 88 potential jurors are left, but it could take several more days to narrow the list to 12.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard Jr. had only two questions for the jury pool Monday, both related to whether the potential jurors could render a fair judgment if asked to serve.
Defense lawyers had a much longer list of questions. Garland asked if any jurors listened to rap music regularly, or if anyone had ever called 911 for any reason.
Other defense questions suggested how the attorneys might defend their clients during the trial.
Steve Sadow, the lead attorney for Sweeting, asked potential jurors if they had ever been forced to use a weapon in self-defense. He also asked if anyone had been shot at.
"And for those of you who answered yes, how many of you stuck around to find out why they were shooting at you?" Sadow asked to the laughter of the potential jurors.
Shots were fired at Lewis' limousine after the fight.
Prosecutors have said in court documents that the defendants chased down Lollar and Baker and started fighting with them after an argument as they all left the Cobalt Lounge.
Lewis' lawyers are expected to argue that he didn't stab anyone and acted as a peacemaker. But if the prosecution can convince a jury that Lewis participated in the brawl that led to the two deaths, he can be convicted of murder even if he didn't stab anyone.
Prosecutors during the weekend secured the testimony of Rehana Grant, one of the women riding in Lewis' limousine the night of the killings. Grant has been given immunity in exchange for her testimony, according to her lawyer, Cynthia Roseberry. Grant is the third person in the limo to get immunity.
Also, forensic DNA expert Henry Lee, who impressed jurors while working for O.J. Simpson's defense team, is now listed as a prosecution witness.