Art Lien / Nbc News
Harriet Grant, left foreground, watches as her husband, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, right background, faces the potential jury pool (who are shown only in outline at judge's instruction) at the start of juror selection in Scooter Libby's perjury trial, Monday.
updated 1/17/2007 9:36:35 PM ET 2007-01-18T02:36:35

A former Washington Post reporter who wrote a book on spying and lived near someone who could be a key witness in the case was approved as a potential juror in the CIA leak case Wednesday.

The man's acceptance into the jury pool showed the difficulty that attorneys have had in picking a jury in the highly publicized perjury case against former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Several potential jurors have been disqualified for having strongly negative feelings about the Bush administration.

The former journalist who spent nearly an hour on the stand during the second day of jury selection lives near NBC "Meet the Press" anchor Tim Russert and knew or had connections to several key witnesses in the case. He once worked under Post reporter Bob Woodward and had followed the case in the news.

(MSNBC.com is owned, in part, by NBC News.)

He was even friends with an attorney who played touch football with Libby -- "He's got a great arm," the potential juror remarked.

Despite his connections to the witnesses, he said he did not have preconceived opinions about the case.

"I'm very skeptical about pretty much everything I hear until I see it backed up," he said.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys can still use a peremptory -- or unexplained -- challenge to strike him from the jury pool when he returns Thursday.

Another potential juror, a producer for National Public Radio, was excused for cause after saying he could not view Judith Miller, the former New York Times reporter, with the same credibility as other potential witnesses.  The producer explained that he does most of his work in Iraq and had also produced segments that covered the CIA leak case story, but did not directly produce the content.  He added he knows various journalists involved in this case and says he would have to continue reading news to be effective at his job.

Another prospective juror, a woman, was excused for cause because she said she has strong feelings about the Bush administration.  When asked by the judge if a witness from the administration would start off with a strike against them, she responded "yes."

All but one of the 33 prospective jurors who have been interviewed so far by both parties and U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton knows at least some details about the leak of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity.

Twenty-four prospective jurors remain in the pool. Nine have been dismissed, among those:

  • Two for financial hardship.
  • One for difficulty with English.
  • Six for bias.

Cheney bird hunting incident resurfaces
Among the day’s potential jurors was a retired high school math teacher from North Carolina who moved to the District of Columbia for medical care brought photos of his grandkids to the stand with him.  Judge Walton smiled and looked at them.  The prospective juror was asked about Cheney and said, "I think the vice president played a pivotal role in desert storm, the first war.  I think, as defense secretary, he deserves a lot of credit for that.”  He added, "Not sure about his health with his heart," and

"I'm not sure I'd like to go bird hunting with him either," – a statement that was followed by Defendant Libby putting his head in his hands.

When the potential juror was asked how he felt about President Bush's Iraq war credibility, he replied, "I have some concerns. I don’t always agree his Iraq policy. He has more info than I do certainly. If it were me making the decisions, I would have gone in with 500,000 troops rather than a smaller amount to make sure had all bases were covered."  He added, "As time goes on, I'm beginning to have less faith in him or the intel… that’s my feeling” and "I want to believe him and know that he has access to much more info than I do or we do. I'd like to trust him that he's been acting in our best interest.  I'm becoming leery."

The judge instructed the juror to return to court on Thursday.

Another potential juror in the case was allowed to remain in the pool Wednesday after saying she would be impartial and put aside her tepid impression of Vice President Dick Cheney, Libby's former boss and an expected defense witness.

"I'm not particularly impressed with a lot of his manners of being, but I can't speak to his credibility," said the woman, who works for the Department of Health and Human Services.

The importance of Cheney
Libby's attorneys say it's critical they know whether potential jurors view the vice president as credible. Two people who expressed doubts about that were dismissed from the jury pool Tuesday.

Another woman was disqualified Wednesday after telling Walton, "I can't believe any statement made by the Bush administration."

Questioning of potential jurors is scheduled to continue through the week with opening arguments planned for Monday, in a trial expected to take up to six weeks.

Plame's identity was leaked to the press in 2003, around the time her husband, Joseph Wilson, was criticizing the Bush administration's march to war. The trial hinges not on the source of the leak but whether Libby lied to investigators.

He says he forgot his conversations with reporters because he had more pressing matters on his mind.

NBC's Joel Seidman and Kelly O'Donnell contributed to this story.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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