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Jury pool in Stewart case runs the gamut from fans to foes

NEW YORK -- Lawyers in the Martha Stewart trial are weeding through a diverse jury pool, from a man who said she could not be trusted to a woman who looked at her and said: "I am a huge fan of yours. Good luck."

A transcript released yesterday of the first day of jury questioning offered a glimpse at the painstaking process by which lawyers for the government and Stewart are trying to detect whether jurors might favor either side.

No one involved in the case appears to believe it is possible to seat a jury of 12 people who have never heard of Stewart. Instead, the judge in the case is trying to make sure they can try the case fairly.

"I mean, it's been impossible to totally not hear about the case," one potential juror told the judge, according to the transcript.

The judge told the potential juror, a homemaker and former lawyer, that she may wind up on the jury, depending in part on whether she can find someone to watch her 13-year-old child.

Stewart, 62, is accused of lying to the government and her own shareholders about why she sold ImClone Systems Inc. stock in late 2001, just before it plummeted on a negative government review of an ImClone cancer drug.

Hundreds of people have filled out jury questionnaires. The judge has barred reporters from watching follow-up interviews with those people, instead releasing a transcript the following day with names removed.

US District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum approved 14 jurors after questioning Tuesday, and a lawyer for Stewart's co-defendant, Peter Bacanovic, characterized yesterday as a "similar day."

The judge is said to want 50 available for the next round, when lawyers narrow the pool to 12 jurors and six alternates.

The transcript reveals that, both in questionnaires and the follow-up interviews, jurors have been asked their feelings about wealthy people, and whether people in law enforcement and the stock industry can be trusted.

One potential juror answered in the questionnaire that he did not trust Stewart. In a follow-up interview, he told the judge: "Sometimes people that are -- that are powerful are not so trustworthy." He was disqualified.

A woman reported that she worked on a trading desk at a securities firm where the Stewart case is talked about "very regularly" and said she would have trouble ignoring news reports about the trial.

She was disqualified. But before she stepped down, according to the transcript, she addressed "the defendant" -- presumably Stewart -- and said: "I am a huge fan of yours. Good luck."

But other potential jurors were cleared by the judge despite coming from lines of work, or expressing certain feelings, that lawyers found troubling -- a sign of the difficulty in picking a jury in such a highly publicized case.

One woman was allowed to continue after saying she did not believe the government was doing enough to prosecute corporate scandals. And a man was cleared after saying he believed money, in some cases, could buy justice.

And in a peek at the trial to come, prosecutors told the judge they may offer as evidence a report that mentions Mary Meeker, a high-profile Morgan Stanley Internet stock analyst.

Some lawsuits filed by investors in 2001 blamed Meeker and the firm for their losses in Internet stocks, but a federal judge quickly dismissed the suits.

Stewart attorney Robert Morvillo said the defense may call Meeker as a witness if the government introduces the report. Opening statements are expected early next week.

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