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Potential questions for jurors in Stevens case

From Richard Mauer in Anchorage --

What potential Washington, D.C., jurors know about Alaska, what they think about the oil industry, and whether they have reservations about sending an 84-year-old man to jail are all questions on proposed juror questionnaires submitted for review Monday in U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens’ felony disclosure case.

Prosecutors and Stevens’ defense attorney filed three separate lists of questions to U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan — one they agreed on, and separate additions (government here and defense here) they hoped to convince the judge to use.

Sullivan said he expects to begin seating a jury in Washington on Sep. 22 — though Stevens is still hoping to move the trial to Alaska, where undoubtedly the questions to potential jurors would be quite different.

Anyone who’s served on a jury will be familiar with most of the noncontroversial, joint questions: where do you work, do you know anyone in the courtroom, have you ever been convicted of a crime, can you spare the time to sit in a courtroom (for four weeks), do you understand the presumption of innocence afforded any defendant?

But there were also questions unique to this case: have you ever had a vexing experience with home remodeling? Ever refuse to pay a contractor because the work was lousy? Both sides want to know, presumably because the renovations to Stevens’ Girdwood home starting in 2000 by the oil-field service company Veco are central to the case. The government, in its seven-count indictment, alleged Stevens failed to disclose work and furnishing provided by Veco and its chairman, Bill Allen.

Several joint questions seek to find out if potential jurors are political active or read about politics, especially the insider Capitol Hill publications. Do they listen to talk radio, read political blogs or go to Internet forums? The government, in particular, wants to know if they read the conservative Drudge Report or the liberal Huffington Post online.

Stevens’ lawyers want to know what kind of impression the potential jurors have of Alaska in general. Their answers, by the way, may provide a clue about the harm to Alaska of all the coverage — some involving Stevens — of our famed "Bridges to Nowhere," other earmarks and the corruption investigation.

Stevens’ lawyers are seeking permission to ask a similar question about their impressions of Congress in general.

The government wants to know if the IRS has ever gone after them, in particular for the error of a spouse or tax preparer.

And then there are these proposed questions, also from the government: In your course of employment/business, have you ever given a gift to a vendor? In your course of employment/business have you ever received a gift from another business entity?

And finally, the government wants to know whether Stevens’ age would prejudice the outcome: “Would you have any difficulty finding an 84-year-old guilty of a crime if you knew that a conviction might result in a prison term?”

A hearing will be held at 11 a.m. Washington time tomorrow on Stevens' request to move the trial to Alaska.

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