Judge: Martha Stewart Jurors Off Limits to Media

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In a judicial nod to public interest in the Martha Stewart (search) criminal trial, a judge warned Friday that prospective jurors and their families are off limits to anyone reporting about the case.

The selection process begins Tuesday when prospective jurors receive questionnaires at U.S. District Court in Manhattan, where Stewart faces charges of conspiracy, securities fraud, obstruction of justice and making false statements.

On Jan. 20, the trial begins in earnest when the 62-year-old home decorating diva is introduced to prospective jurors, some of whom will be interviewed in greater detail about their background, beliefs and ability to be fair and impartial.

In a three-page order issued Friday, Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum said prospective jurors will be instructed not to speak to anyone about the case or to read or hear about it in the media.

Noting that the trial will be subject to "widespread and intense press coverage," the judge said it was necessary to restrict contact between potential jurors and the print, broadcast and Internet media along with sketch artists, photographers, freelance journalists, authors and other writers.

She said no member of the press may speak to, interview or have any contact or communication with any prospective or selected juror or their families.

Stewart faces trial on charges that she lied to investigators about why she sold ImClone Systems Inc. (IMCL) stock on Dec. 27, 2001, just before it plunged on a negative government review of the company's new cancer drug.

Stewart, who has pleaded innocent, claims she had a standing order to sell the stock when it fell to $60.