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Judge cancels Al-Arian jury selection

A federal court judge canceled two days of jury selection set for next week in the trial of a former University of South Florida professor charged with helping fund an Islamic terrorist group.

Associated Press
Published March 29, 2005

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - A federal court judge canceled jury selection scheduled for next week in the trial of a former professor charged with helping fund an Islamic terrorist group U.S. District Judge James Moody on Tuesday canceled two days of jury selection set for next week. The trial of Sami Al-Arian and three others was set for May 16.

On Monday, Al-Arian's attorneys said they would request a change of venue for the trial citing prejudicial pretrial media coverage and the use of the case in the U.S. Senate campaign last fall. Also, co-defendant Hatem Naji Fariz had requested jury selection be delayed because six weeks would elapse between jury selection and the start of the trial and jurors might be exposed to pretrial media coverage.

Kevin T. Beck, Fariz's attorney, also said the defense team has hired an expert to study the need for a change of venue motion.

This month, Moody met with attorneys to review answers to hundreds of questionnaires completed by potential jurors who were surveyed on their attitudes about the case, and Muslims, Palestinians and Arabs. The defendants are Muslims of Arab descent.

Many respondents expressed hatred toward Muslims or prejudice against Al-Arian. Although Moody excused a number of people because of bias, some of them remain in the pool of potential jurors. After prosecutors objected to excusing some potential jurors, the judge said he wanted to talk to those jury candidates in person about their views.

The judge said there were at least 157 candidates left in the pool of about 330 people who filled out questionnaires.

[Last modified March 29, 2005, 18:33:01]

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