Another trial, another juror with Oprah tickets

May 17, 2011

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(WBEZ/Robert Wildeboer)
Defense attorneys Patrick Blege, left, and Charlie Swift represent accused terrorist Tahawwur Rana.

Jurors will start answering questions Tuesday morning to see if they can give a fair hearing to a Chicago man accused of terrorism.  But one juror doesn’t have to show up to Tuesday's hearing.  She has tickets to a taping of Oprah, so the judge said she didn’t have to come to court until Wednesday.  A similar thing happened recently in the retrial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.  Though in that instance the juror with Oprah tickets was excused from the case altogether. 

Jury selection in the terrorism trial started Monday with a hundred potential jurors filing into a courtroom for some instructions and introductions.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys introduced themselves, and when Tahawwur Rana was introduced, he stood up and smiled and said a friendly "Good morning."  He’s accused of plotting a 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai, India which left more than 160 people dead.  On Tuesday the judge and attorneys will ask potential jurors what they know about the attacks, and terrorism, and Islam.  They want to weed out jurors who would not be fair.

Testimony in the case could complicate relations between Pakistan and the U.S., and India. Rana's attorneys acknowledge that terrorism charges inflame the passions, but they say it's their job to get jurors to focus on the facts and logic.

"We hope that the jurors remember that the question at the end of this day is not the geopolitical aspects of this trial, but what did Dr. Rana do if anything, and I think at the end of the trial people will have a lot of questions but one of the answers will be this man doesn’t seem to have done anything," said defense attorney Charlie Swift.

As for jury selection, Swift says the defense team doesn’t have a profile for the ideal juror.  He says everyone is prejudiced, but they want jurors who can set their prejudice aside and be fair and impartial.