NEW YORK Jury selection was completed shortly before 5 p.m. Thursday in the criminal trial of Sean "Puffy" Combs and Jamal "Shyne" Barrow as 12 jurors and six alternates were seated amid accusations that each side in the case was picking jurors based on race.
Five women and seven men were chosen for the jury, including four who were selected on Wednesday; seven are black and five are white. The ages range from mid-30s to mid-60s, with most in their 40s or 50s.
The six alternates include two Hispanics, two blacks and two whites. Two are men, the rest are women.
As they had on Wednesday, defense lawyers accused prosecutor Matthew Bogdanos of illegally challenging potential jurors because they were black or Hispanic. But on Thursday, Bogdanos argued that it was the defense who was violating the law by dismissing jurors because they were white. Most of the jurors challenged by the defense team have been white, while most of the jurors challenged by Bogdanos have been black or Hispanic, but both sides denied using race as a factor.
Judge Charles Solomon rejected the complaints, ruling that the challenges were based on valid race-neutral reasons.
Lawyers also clashed over their questions to prospective jurors. Combs' lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, asked Solomon to allow him to ask prospective jurors if they were familiar with cases in which people have been wrongfully convicted.
"DAs are overzealous; juries make mistakes," said Cochran, who stood out from his fellow lawyers in a purple suit. "Not only are there wrongful convictions 25 percent are because of overzealousness, [and] 50 percent are because of racism."
Bogdanos argued that just as it would be inappropriate for him to ask jurors about wrongfully acquitted defendants, or about "sleazy defense attorneys who know their client is guilty yet put on false testimony," Cochran's proposed line of questioning was not legitimate. The judge sided with Bogdanos.
Solomon also chided Cochran after the lawyer told jurors that they must have a "moral certainty" that defendants are guilty in order to vote for conviction. The actual standard, of course, is guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt."
Each side of the case was allowed to exercise 15 peremptory challenges removal of jurors without having to state a cause.
Opening statements are scheduled for Monday, and Shyne is due in court Friday for a pre-trial hearing.
(Click here for a complete explanation of the charges in the case.)