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Questionnaires yield portrait of bombings trial jury


NEW YORK (CNN) -- If you were to sketch a composite of the average juror in the embassy bombings case, it would be a 46-year-old black woman with two years of college who lives in a rented apartment New York City, does not watch much TV news, and never heard of Osama bin Laden before answering her jury summons last December.

That's the rough portrait that emerges from questionnaires completed by the 18 men and women chosen to sit for the lengthy trial under way in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

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Judge Leonard Sand, after a written request from CNN and the New York Times, released copies of the juror surveys on Wednesday.

The stack of paper offers the first insight into the jury that will decide the fate of four men accused of a decade-long conspiracy to kill Americans and destroy U.S. government property, a conspiracy the government alleges culminated in the August 7, 1998, bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The 96 questions probed each potential juror's personal and family history, news awareness, knowledge of the case, experience with crime, and views of punishment, especially the death penalty.

In all, 1,302 people completed the surveys over six days in the jury assembly room of the courthouse. The court excused two-thirds of the pool for stating they would endure serious hardship if chosen for the nine-month trial.

Of the remaining 424 pool members, only half went through one-on-one interviews in closed court sessions over 13 days. When the pool got down to 80, the lawyers used their challenges to reduce the panel to the 18 needed -- a dozen main jurors and six alternates.

Who are they?

The youngest is 26. The oldest is 66. Ten are women, eight are men. Nine are black, three are white, three are Puerto Rican, one is Asian, one describes herself as multiracial, and another says she does not know her race because she was adopted.

All the jurors live in either Manhattan, the Bronx or Westchester County. Only three own their homes.

Most have full-time jobs, including legal secretary, data entry clerk, accountant, bank teller, editor, technician, telecommunications salesman, social worker, rehabilitation therapist, car inspector, and construction manager.

Two hold part-time jobs, and two are retired.

The group's hobbies include making jewelry, doing needlework, writing poems, running marathons, playing basketball, playing chess, fishing, and going to off-Broadway shows.

The most widely read newspaper among the jurors is the New York Daily News, and the local NBC affiliate is their top choice for TV news. Three say they watch CNN regularly.

Most of the jury was previously aware of the embassy bombings, but only two panelists had heard of bin Laden, the Saudi exile accused of masterminding the attacks.

"I have heard that bin Laden is a wealthy individual who is suspected of funding terrorist groups," wrote juror No. 57.

The defendants were complete unknowns.

No juror is acquainted with anyone who works for the State Department or in a U.S. embassy. Two have connections to law enforcement -- juror No. 518, whose father was an New York policeman, and juror No. 692, whose cousin is a detective.

None are Muslim, and few profess to know much about Islam. None expressed harboring any hostility toward Arabs.

Views on the death penalty

The four defendants hail from Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Tanzania. Two could face the death penalty.

Every juror indicated he or she could vote for an execution, at least under certain circumstances. If they had not, they probably would have been excused. Asked to rank how favorable they are toward the death penalty from a low of 1 to a high of 10, the average rating was 6.

Answering a multiple-choice question, the most common juror descriptions of the death penalty were "useful" or "necessary."

"If the death penalty is the last recourse, I can vote for it," wrote juror No. 32.

Most expressed a mixed opinion of capital punishment, saying they could support it only if the crime was so heinous and they had total certainty of a defendant's guilt.

"While I am morally opposed to the death penalty, there are some crimes that are so horrific in nature," wrote juror No. 447, "that mere incarceration does not do justice to the lives lost."

"If the evidence shows that it's 100 percent pointing at the men," wrote juror No. 647.

One juror, No. 786, said he believed the death penalty is racially biased. "Because of the number of blacks and minority people on death row, people from other races with the same crime was spared," he said.

Only three serving jurors told the court an assignment to this trial would create hardship in their lives. But they conceded each of their employers will continue to pay their salaries. Each juror also receives $40 a day, pre-taxes, a rate that climbs to $50 a day after the first 30 days of trial.

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Links to United States Embassies and Consulates Worldwide
Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1999
FBI Websites Document Evidence Against Bin Laden
Dept of State/International Information Programs:
Ussamah Bin Laden
US District Court, Southern District of New York
U.S. State Department - Counterterrorism
Terrorism Research Center
Africa News on the World Wide Web

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