The change of venue in the first Washington, D.C., sniper trial of John Allen Muhammad may be working. At least two thirds of 123 potential jurors questioned yesterday in Virginia Beach, Va., said they have not been influenced by the flood of media coverage, the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot reports. The jury could be chosen as soon as today.
Muhammad is on trial in the killing of Dean Meyers, an engineer shot while pumping gas in northern Virginia last October. Muhammad, 42, and Lee Boyd Malvo, 18, are suspected of killing 10 people in 13 shootings that terrorized Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. for three weeks.
Many potential jurors had trouble with the expected six-week length of the trial; about 50 were excused for health, family and financial responsibilities. “If I don’t work, I don’t get paid,” said Juror No. 377, a woman (jurors are referred to onl by number). Judge Leroy Millette let her go. “He’s readily excusing more jurors than anyone ever anticipated,” said a lawyer watching the trial. More than 1,000 jurors have been summoned.
Yesterday, the pool was narrowed from 123 to 70. The goal is to reach 27; defense attorneys and prosecutors the will each have six “strikes,” reducing the list to 15–12 jurors and 3 alternates.