Stevens Faces Political, Demographic Obstacles in Corruption Trial

By the time the jury box was full Wednesday in Sen. Ted Stevens' corruption trial, it was clear the Senate's longest-serving Republican was a long way from home.

Stevens failed in his bid to transfer the trial to Alaska, where he has been a figure in politics for generations and where he is known fondly as "Uncle Ted."

Instead, he will face trial in Washington, where one juror after another said they knew nothing of Stevens or the FBI investigation that has swirled around him for more than a year.

In Alaska, where corruption has upended state politics, the FBI investigation has dominated headlines. Here, few jurors said they'd read anything about it.

Rather than standing trial in one of the nation's most reliably Republican states, Stevens saw the 11 women and five men jurors and alternates selected from a heavily Democratic district.

The differences also extend to demographics. Twelve of the 16 jurors on the panel — which includes four alternates — are black. In Alaska, fewer than 4 percent of residents are black.

Stevens is on trial for allegedly lying about more than $250,000 in home improvements and gifts from powerful oil contractor VECO Corp. He is hoping for a speedy acquittal before voters go to the poll in November to decide whether to re-elect him.

Opening arguments are scheduled to begin Thursday after two days of jury selection.