Jury selection began in the trial of a Pope County doctor charged in a bombing outside the home of the state medical board chairman, a federal case that's expected to last at least a month.
Jury selection starts in Ark. doc's bombing trial
Proceedings began slowly Tuesday morning with a pool of 85 potential jurors. None had been picked by midday. U.S. District Judge Brian Miller has set aside four days for jury selection, a process he said will be slowed because of pretrial publicity in the case.
Randeep Mann is charged in the February 2009 bombing that badly hurt Dr. Trent Pierce, the chairman of the Arkansas State Medical Board. Mann's wife, Sangeeta, faces obstruction charges.
Prosecutors say Mann planned the bombing after the board disciplined him. The board restricted Mann's prescription-writing privileges after complaints that several of his patients had overdosed. The bombing outside Pierce's West Memphis home happened shortly after the medical board received a complaint that Mann was illegally distributing prescription drugs.
The doctor faces no drug charges.
"I really believe that almost every juror will have read, heard or seen something" about the case, Miller told attorneys Tuesday.
That seemed apparent with the first group of potential jurors. Five were dismissed before proceedings began, and of the remaining jurors, 23 said they'd already formed an opinion about whether the Manns were guilty.
When asked whether he'd read or heard anything about the case, one potential juror responded, "Oh yes. Lots."
One woman said her husband did contract work for the medical board and patients had threatened to bomb his car.
By lunchtime Tuesday, the judge and attorneys had not yet begun striking jurors from the panel.
Mann, who has been jailed since his March 2009 arrest, listened attentively to Miller's questions. During breaks, he smiled and chatted with his wife, who sat next to him at the defense table.
Attorneys told potential jurors that they may call up to 170 witnesses in the case. A potential witness list included Pierce and his wife, Melissa; agents from the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; workers at hospitals in Memphis and West Memphis where Pierce was treated; and London city workers who stumbled upon a cache of grenades outside Mann's home in rural Pope County. The doctor, a licensed firearms dealer, also faces charges of possessing 98 unregistered grenades and two unregistered machine guns.
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