JURY ADMIT THEY CAN’T GIVE PUFFY FAIR TRIAL

More than 20 confess their fears as the star prepares to face weapons charges...

More than 20 potential jurors in the trial of hip hop superstar SEAN ‘PUFFY’ COMBS, the rapper JAMAL ‘SHYNE’ BARROW and COMBS’ bodyguard ANTHONY JONES over their part in a December 1999 nightclub shooting admitted yesterday (January 18) they could not promise the trio a fair trial.

As 90 jurors remain to be questioned and whittled down to a final 12, it appears that some of the fears the defence counsel put forward about jury members being influenced by widespread media coverage of both the incident and recent pre-trial hearings has been justified.

During yesterday’s hearing in a Manhattan court, about a third said they could not be objective. Only five of the 64 people interviewed admitted to knowing nothing about the incident.

According to Court TV, set to broadcast the entire trial. which is expected to last at least five weeks, amongst those excused were a white businessman who told Combs’ defence team of Benjamin Brafman and Johnnie Cochran that his employees told him Combs was “being railroaded”. A potential Hispanic woman juror said her concern for Combs’ girlfriend Jennifer Lopez, implicated by some out-of-court witness claims, would affect her decision-making. Some of the panellists also said that they could not guarantee impartiality because of Cochran’s high profile role as defence counsel during the trial of OJ Simpson.

“I thought he got a guilty man off,” one woman told the judge. “It just makes me wonder why he was picked as a lawyer in this case.” She too was dismissed.

The most common reason for dismissal yesterday (January 19) was admission by potential jurors that they felt Combs and the co-accused were guilty.

The case against the three stems from an incident in Club New York on December 27 1999, when three people were shot. Combs and Jones face weapons charges after being stopped by police fleeing the scene in a car in which the alleged weapon used in the attack was found, while Shyne faces the more serious charges of attempted murder, assault and reckless endangerment.

Jury selection is due to continue today (January 19), and conclude on Monday (January 22).