Jury Selection Begins in Stewart Case

Hundreds of potential jurors in the Martha Stewart trial filed into a federal courthouse Tuesday to fill out questionnaires drawn up by prosecutors and the homemaking maven's defense team.

Filling out the questionnaires marked the beginning of jury selection in Stewart's trial on charges she lied to the government about her sale of ImClone Systems stock in 2001.

Lawyers on both sides will receive hundreds of completed questionnaires Wednesday, then spend two weeks reviewing them before interviewing some jurors in person on Jan. 20. Opening arguments should come several days after that.

The jury questionnaire has not been made public by the federal judge who will oversee the case, and the prosecution and defense have declined to release it.

Jurors filled out the forms Tuesday under tighter-than-usual security. Federal agents were stationed outside entrances to the large rooms where potential jurors gather.

Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum has ordered the media not to speak to potential jurors, citing the need for an unbiased jury and saying she was acting at the request of both the prosecution and defense.

Stewart and her also-indicted former stockbroker, Peter Bacanovic, were not in court Tuesday. They are scheduled to make their first appearances at the trial Jan. 20.

The two are accused of concocting a false story about why Stewart sold nearly 4,000 shares of ImClone Systems stock Dec. 27, 2001, a day before a negative government report sent its share price tumbling.

The government says they were tipped that ImClone founder Sam Waksal was selling his shares. Stewart and Bacanovic claim they had a previous arrangement to sell ImClone when it dipped to $60 per share.

On Monday, the government filed a new indictment against Stewart and Bacanovic, making mostly cosmetic and typographical changes. No new charges were contained in the new indictment.

Still, prosecutors did change some of the language in the indictment, substituting the phrase "false and misleading" for "false" when referring to explanations Stewart gave investigators for her ImClone sale.

Michael Kulstad, a spokesman for federal prosecutors, declined comment on the changes.

While Stewart and Bacanovic will have to re-enter their pleas of innocent because of the new indictment, it was not expected to delay the start of the trial. Their plea appearance was not immediately scheduled.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved.