BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Jury selection began Thursday in the shoplifting trial of actress Winona Ryder, with the judge warning potential jurors they must ignore all publicity about the case and not discuss it with anyone.
"Obviously there has been some publicity in regard to this matter," Superior Court Judge Elden Fox told the initial panel of 33 prospects.
He indicated that publicity is such a central issue that a written questionnaire had been prepared for jurors to fill out, telling the court what they know about the case and any opinions on it they have formed.
Ryder, star of "Girl, Interrupted" and other films, sat solemnly at the counsel table, taking notes.
The 30-year-old actress was arrested last December at a Saks Fifth Avenue store for allegedly stealing nearly $5,000 worth of designer merchandise, including hats, handbags, tops and hair accessories. Ryder could face up to three years in prison if convicted of three felony counts of grand theft, second-degree burglary and vandalism.
The judge said sent jurors off to fill out their questionnaires, telling them the case would resume Friday afternoon. After a jury is seated the trial should last five to seven days, Fox said, with the presentation of evidence likely to begin on Monday.
It was unclear whether Ryder would testify. She made fun of the charges on "Saturday Night Live" and appeared on the cover of June's W magazine in a "Free Winona" T-shirt.
Last week, a judge dismissed a charge that Ryder illegally possessed a prescription painkiller when she was arrested. Ryder's doctor provided prosecutors with a declaration saying he provided her with a generic form of Percocet without a prescription.
Ryder has appeared in more than two dozen movies, including Mr. Deeds, Alien Resurrection, Little Women, The Crucible, Reality Bites, Mermaids and Edward Scissorhands.