WASHINGTON – A federal judge is putting more potential jurors on standby in the CIA leak trial because so many people have been dismissed, mostly because of strong feelings against the Bush administration and the Iraq war.
U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton had hoped to have a 12-person jury picked Thursday so opening statements could be held Monday. After three days of hearings, however, Walton did not even have a pool of 36 impartial people from which to choose the final jury. He pushed opening statements back to Tuesday.
Attorneys for former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby have been asking pointed questions about each juror's political views. Several have been dismissed because they said they could not set aside their opinions on President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney or the war in Iraq.
Libby is accused of lying to investigators about his conversations with reporters regarding outed CIA operative Valerie Plame. Plame's identity was revealed shortly after her husband, Joseph Wilson, criticized the administration's march to war.
As defense attorneys continued pressing would-be jurors about their views, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said, "The jury will not be asked to render a verdict on the war or what they think of the war."
Walton needs six more jurors to fill the jury pool but has only a handful available in the original pool. He ordered 10 jurors from an alternate pool to come to court on Monday in case they run out.
The jury pool is drawn from within Washington, a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 9-to-1.