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Jury Selection Begins in Trial Of Cheney...s Former Chief Aide

By Neil A. Lewis


The perjury trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr. began Tuesday with his lawyers trying to eliminate as jurors anyone who might have strongly negative feelings about the Bush administration in general and Vice President Dick Cheney in particular.

Libby, who was the vice president’s chief of staff, is facing five felony counts charging that he lied to FBI agents and to a grand jury investigating who leaked the name of a CIA operative and why. Judge Reggie M. Walton, who is presiding over the case in U.S. District Court, has said he hopes to have the jury in place for opening statements on Monday.

The first day of jury selection on Tuesday went slowly, with only nine potential jurors interviewed. Two of them were excused by Walton after they made it clear they were critics of the administration and Cheney.

One woman lasted barely 40 seconds on the witness stand before she was dismissed. She said “nothing that could be said here” would make her believe anything good about the administration. Another man, after about 15 minutes, acknowledged that his low regard for Cheney might figure into how he evaluated his testimony if it was in conflict with other witnesses.

Cheney is expected to be one of the star witnesses for the defense.

Libby’s lawyers, Theodore V. Wells and William H. Jeffress Jr., also explored whether potential jurors were open to one of their main lines of argument: that if Libby gave incorrect answers to the FBI and the grand jury, it could have been a simple case of faulty memory.

They asked the potential jurors if they ever had the experience of believing something had happened only to learn later that they had remembered it incorrectly. They also asked if two people gave “different accounts of a conversation they had,” did that necessarily mean one of the participants was lying.

After the name of the CIA officer, Valerie Wilson — who was known by her maiden name, Valerie Plame — appeared in a column by Robert D. Novak in July 2003, Patrick J. Fitzgerald was named as a special prosecutor to investigate the leak.