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Jury selection started today in the federal corruption trial of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen. Prosecutors allege that the former first couple promoted Star Scientific's products in exchange for gifts and mortgage loans from the company's former CEO, Jonnie Williams.
Before both sides start making their case, however, the first step is to try and choose a fair and impartial jury.
The former governor greeted reporters outside the courthouse with good morning, and inquired how they were doing. One asked McDonnell if he was optimistic.
"Well, I'm glad we're finally going to get a chance to present our defense in court," said the former governor.
Several of the couple's children sat behind them in court for support. A diverse pool of 150 potential jurors entered and answered a roll call of their names. Judge James Spencer then proceeded to ask them questions that could affect their eligibility. He inquired whether they knew the McDonnells, their attorneys or the prosecutors. He read a list of 131 potential witnesses, including House Speaker Bill Howell and former Governor Doug Wilder, to ask whether they knew them.
The judge also inquired whether each or their families were ever employed in law enforcement, had expertise in banking, accounting or mortgages or have been state employees. Many answered affirmatively.
Once the judge excuses some, prosecutors may strike 10 from the pool and the defense 16, to choose a panel of 12 jurors and four alternates.