Alleged plotters of Sears Tower bombing face 3d trial
First two cases ended with hung juries
MIAMI - Federal prosecutors will try for a third time to persuade jurors that six men from an impoverished Miami neighborhood were members of a blossoming Al-Qaeda cell bent on destroying Chicago's Sears Tower to help ignite a war against the United States.
Prosecutors have indicated that they may change their approach for this week's trial after two juries didn't buy their case that the group's leader, 34-year-old Narseal Batiste, was trying to orchestrate a grandiose blood bath. Jurors in both mistrials said they were skeptical that Batiste could have chronic money woes and difficulty keeping a simple construction business afloat while planning to overthrow the government.
Some 30 months have passed since FBI agents swooped down on a Miami warehouse to arrest Batiste and his followers in a case President George W. Bush's administration pointed to as an example of its policy of preventing terror plots in the earliest stages possible.
But trials in 2007 and 2008 ended in hung juries for the six, and a seventh man was acquitted after the first go-around.
Another mistrial would make dropping the case more likely, a decision that would rest with President Obama's new administration.
The two hung juries "certainly raise some doubt about whether a jury is going to reach a consensus in the future," said Douglas Keene, president of the American Society of Trial Consultants. "They do not represent the level of threat that people assume attaches to terrorists."
However, prosecutors say there's ample evidence of a plot to try again.
Jury selection is set to begin today.
First, they have some 15,000 FBI audio and video recordings that include Batiste threatening to "kill all the devils we can" and comparing the US government to "the kingdom of Satan."
And they say the men took an allegiance oath to Osama bin Laden.
US District Judge Joan Lenard has imposed a gag order on everyone connected with the case in an attempt to limit media coverage that might influence jurors.