Questioning of jurors begins in Fort Dix case

/ Source: The Associated Press

Prospective jurors discussed their attitudes toward religion and immigrants Tuesday as a complex process began to seat a jury in the case of five men accused of planning to attack Fort Dix.

Lawyers asked questions of 11 potential jurors Tuesday morning, examining whether they could be fair even if they thought Islam encouraged violence or they had family in the service.

Four of the first 11 prospects were dismissed. The other seven remained in a pool of prospects. They included a federal employee with a history of migraines, a woman who said she'd prefer that everyone was a Christian, and one who said she struggles to make the right decisions.

One who was excused after lengthy questioning said she is the wife of a retired National Guard member who served about a year at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the U.S. is holding suspected terrorists from overseas.

Judge wants trial to begin Oct. 20
U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler agreed to dismiss her but commented to lawyers, "If you think we're going to find 18 automatons who have no experience or opinions, we're going to be here for a century."

Kugler hopes to have the 12 jurors and six alternates seated in time for the trial to begin Oct. 20.

The five suspects, all foreign-born Muslims and longtime New Jersey residents, are accused of plotting to raid Fort Dix, an Army installation used largely to train reservists for deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan. No attack was carried out.

The men could face life in prison if they're convicted on all counts, which include attempted murder and conspiracy to murder military personnel.

About 1,500 people were summoned to jury duty last month for the case. More than half were excused immediately. Just over 600 filled out questionnaires, but the pool was thinned to about half that before questioning began Tuesday.