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Fulton County, Ga. District Attorney Paul L. Howard Jr. took the lead role Monday in the prosecution of NFL star Ray Lewis. While other prosecutors have handled pretrial proceedings in the murder case –specifically Senior Assistant District Attorney Clinton K. Rucker and Assistant District Attorney Sheila Ross-Finley –it was Howard who did the talking Monday, as the tedious process of assembling a jury began. Howard, a formidable advocate who has been both prosecutor and defense lawyer, left his post as an assistant district attorney in 1988, only to win a string of victories against his old office as a defense lawyer. He is known for his persuasive courtroom skills, skills that netted acquittals in six cases from 1988 to 1991 while he was an associate with Atlanta’s Thomas, Kennedy, Sampson & Patterson. The Lewis case is the most high-profile case so far, for Howard personally and for his office. It was unclear as of press time exactly what role the district attorney will play. While he has not tried a case since taking office in 1997, he did sit at the state’s table during earlier pretrial motions and was in the courtroom for Lewis’ lengthy bond hearing. Howard said he took part Monday to “keep the courtroom from tipping over.” Someone had to balance out the legion of lawyers at the defense table, he said. The state and the defense spent the morning striking potential jurors for cause based on their answers to questionnaires administered last week. Fulton Superior Judge Alice D. Bonner granted few of the contested motions to strike, but did excuse a few jurors who had formed a solid opinion about the case, or who would face hardships if they assumed jury duty. Lewis, the all-pro linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, and co-defendants Joseph Sweeting and Reginald Oakley, are accused of stabbing Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar to death outside the Cobalt Club in Atlanta’s Buckhead district following a Super Bowl party. Each faces two counts of malice murder, two of felony murder and two of aggravated assault. State v. Lewis No. 00CR01635 (Fult. Super. Feb. 11, 2000). Oakley appeared in court for the first time Monday with his lawyer Bruce S. Harvey. Like his co-defendants, Oakley wore a suit and sported a pair of spectacles. Steven H. Sadow, who represents Sweeting, handled most of the defense motions to strike, with the other defense lawyers joining. The defense moved to excuse 21 jurors for cause; Bonner granted five of those motions. Howard asked Bonner to excuse two jurors; the judge denied both requests. Both sides, she said, will have ample time to explore their concerns about individual jurors later in the selection process. And, she said, “I’ll reconsider all of these after the individual voir dire.” 136 COME TO COURT Of the 150 people who received a summons, 136 potential jurors came to court. Both sides agreed to strike 42 jurors based on the questionnaire. With the five that Bonner agreed to strike, that left 89 potential jurors for general questions and individual voir dire. To assemble a panel of 12 jurors and six alternates, the court will need a pool of 54 potential jurors. The defense will have 12 strikes, the state six. Defense lawyers have not said whether or how they intend to divide their allotted strikes. The questionnaire asked potential jurors whether they liked or disliked police officers, prosecutors and defense attorneys. Questions probed what books they read, what movies and television shows they watch, whether they were sports fans, and whether they had any connection with the University of Miami, where Lewis played college ball, or the Baltimore Ravens, for whom he plays now. ASKED ABOUT OPINIONS But the questions that triggered the most motions to strike dealt with how much members of the jury pool thought they knew about the case, whether they had formed or expressed an opinion about it and whether serving on the jury would present a hardship. Sadow offered to go through the list of potential jurors quickly with the court, even offering to convey the prosecution’s wishes regarding particular jurors. With a smile, Bonner said she would let the state make its own arguments. As some in the courtroom chuckled, Howard thanked her and thanked Sadow for his offer. “I’m sorry,” Sadow said. “I’m just trying to be as helpful as I can.” As she prepared for voir dire before taking a lunch break at about 11:20, Bonner worried aloud that her courtroom would be too small to hold the jury pool as well as the 50 or so reporters and observers. But she declined Sadow’s suggestion to exclude the press, commenting that “This is a trial in which the public has an interest and which some media have an interest in covering,” she said.

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