NEW YORK – Lawyers in the Martha Stewart (search) trial are making their way through a diverse jury pool, from a man who said the style expert could not be trusted to a woman who told her: "I am a huge fan of yours. Good luck."
A transcript released Wednesday of the first day of jury questioning offered a glimpse at the painstaking process by which lawyers for the government and Stewart are trying to detect whether jurors might favor one side or the other.
No one involved in the case appears to believe it is possible to seat a jury of 12 people who have never heard of Stewart. Instead, the judge in the case is trying to make sure they can try the case fairly.
"I mean, it's been impossible to totally not hear about the case," one potential juror told the judge. "It has been everywhere."
Stewart, 62, is accused of lying to the government and her own shareholders about why she sold ImClone Systems (IMCL) stock in 2001, just before it plummeted on a negative government decision on an ImClone cancer drug.
Hundreds of people have filled out jury questionnaires. But the judge has barred reporters from watching follow-up interviews with those people, instead releasing a transcript the following day, with names deleted.
U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum approved 14 jurors after questioning Tuesday, and a lawyer for Stewart's co-defendant, Peter Bacanovic (search), characterized Wednesday as a "similar day."
The judge is said to want 50 available for the next round, when lawyers narrow the pool to 12 jurors and six alternates.
In the questionnaires and the follow-up interviews, the prospective jurors have been asked their feelings about the rich, and whether people in law enforcement and the stock industry can be trusted.
One potential juror answered in the questionnaire that he did not trust Stewart. In a follow-up interview, he told the judge: "Sometimes people that are -- that are powerful are not so trustworthy." He was disqualified from the jury.
A woman reported that she worked on a trading desk at a securities firm where the Stewart case is talked about "very regularly" and said she would have trouble ignoring news reports about the trial. She was disqualified.
But before she left the judge's private robing room, according to the transcript, she told Stewart: "I am a huge fan of yours. Good luck."
Other potential jurors were cleared by the judge despite coming from lines of work, or expressing certain feelings, that lawyers found troubling -- a sign of the difficulty in picking a jury in such a highly publicized case.
One woman was allowed to stay after saying she did not believe the government was doing enough to prosecute corporate scandals. And a man was cleared after saying he believed money, in some cases, could buy justice.
Stewart arrived at the courthouse Wednesday morning to watch the second day of juror questioning. Stepping out of a Mercedes and wearing a wraparound coat and high-heeled boots, she smiled at reporters but did not answer any questions. She ascended the courthouse steps on the arm of one of her lawyers.
Across the street from the courthouse, a man in a hooded parka jumped up and down and shouted: "Save Martha! Save Martha! Save Martha!"
Stewart again did not answer reporters' questions as she left, but her attorney, Robert Morvillo said, "Everything went fine today. We'll be back tomorrow."
Stewart claims she and Bacanovic, her ex-stockbroker, had a standing order to sell Stewart's 3,928 shares of ImClone stock when its price fell below $60 per share.
But the government claims Stewart sold after she was tipped that her friend Sam Waksal (search), the founder of ImClone, was trying to sell his shares. Waksal had advance word of the government decision on the drug.
Opening statements are expected early next week.
News organizations, including The Associated Press, have asked a federal appeals court to let reporters watch jury selection. But the court will not hear the case until Monday.