Lawyer asks to quiz jurors in bomb case

He doubts an untainted jury can be seated.

By Times Staff Writer
Published January 24, 2008

TAMPA - An attorney for Youssef Megahed has asked for permission to question potential jurors in the explosives trial of the suspended University of South Florida student.

Adam Allen, Megahed's public defender, said in a motion filed Wednesday that extensive local news coverage of the case could make it difficult to seat impartial jurors.

Unlike state court, where lawyers can question members of the jury pool, federal judges do that themselves.

Allen has asked to use a written questionnaire to help choose a fair jury.

"At the present time, Mr. Megahed is not moving this court for a change of venue," Allen wrote. But he cited "extraordinary and extensive" pretrial publicity, and said there was a strong possibility that it would not be possible to find enough jurors who had not already formed an opinion about the guilt or innocence of the defendants.

Megahed, 21, and Ahmed Mohamed, 26, both Egyptian nationals, have been in custody since Aug. 4, when a deputy stopped them for speeding near a South Carolina naval base.

He searched their car after becoming suspicious and found what experts said were incomplete pipe bombs in their trunk. Their trial could begin in March.