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Jury selection continues in embassy bombing trial
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Another half-dozen people were added to the final jury pool Thursday in the trial stemming from the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
The court also interviewed and excused 11 other potential jurors.
When court reconvenes Friday morning, 52 of the 80 slots of the final pool will be filled. Those candidates must then face a second round of voir dire. A 12-person jury with six alternates will decide the case.
The United States District Court is questioning a pool of 1,300 prospective jurors in one-on-one sessions closed to the public. The prospective jurors previously provided written answers to more than 90 questions in surveys returned to the court last month.
The four men standing trial are accused of participating in a worldwide conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and destroy U.S. government property. The alleged conspiracy included the two embassy attacks which left 224 people dead, including 12 Americans, and injured more than 4,000.
Federal prosecutors allege the conspiracy was led by wealthy Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden, one of 13 indicted fugitives not being tried in the case. Five more defendants are in U.S. or British custody.
The four defendants standing trial are alleged Kenya embassy bomber Mohamed al-'Owhali, 23, a Saudi national; alleged Tanzania embassy bomber Khalfan Mohamed, 27, a Tanzanian; alleged Kenya embassy bomber Mohamad Odeh, 35, of Jordan; and the alleged former personal secretary to bin Laden, Wadih el Hage, 40, a naturalized American.
Both al-'Owhali and Mohamed could face the death penalty -- a focal point and possibly a stumbling block of jury selection, Judge Leonard Sand said Thursday.
"The process by which the death penalty is decided is one that most people are not familiar with," Sand told the group in his welcoming remarks. Sand has reviewed all of the pool members' questionnaires.
"There was a time when the crime itself determined the sentence. It used to be if someone is convicted of premeditated murder, the state said the punishment was death," Sand explained. "That is no longer the case."
Sand told potential jurors that the jury alone will decide whether any capital defendant, if convicted, is sentenced to death or life in prison without parole. Those deliberations would occur in a second phase of the trial, he said.
The trial is expected to last about nine months.
U.S. government prepares to put terrorism on trial
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