The quest to find 17 unbiased jurors for the trial of former Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV and associate Antoine Mackey began today when 250 potential panelists came to court to fill out questionnaires.
Bey and Mackey, both 25, are charged with three counts of murder each for the deaths of journalist Chauncey Bailey and two other men in Oakland in the summer of 2007.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon, who is presiding over the highly anticipated case, is trying to find 12 jurors plus 5 alternates, who will be ready to fill in if any of the regular jurors need to be replaced during the trial.
Additional panels of 250 each are scheduled to come to Reardon's courtroom Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, meaning that 1,000 potential jurors are expected to come to court this week to complete questionnaires.
Reardon, in consultation with prosecutor Melissa Krum and lawyers for Bey and Mackey, today began granting hardship exemptions to potential jurors who say that serving on the jury would create financial problems or other issues for them.
Krum said that if large numbers of potential panelists are granted exemptions this week, Reardon will have to bring in more pools of potential jurors next week.
Reardon and the attorneys in the case are scheduled to begin questioning potential jurors in groups of 20 to 30 people each on Feb. 7.
The questioning process, which is known as voir dire, is expected to be lengthy, so opening statements aren't scheduled until March 21.
Krum alleges that Bey ordered Bailey to be killed because Bailey was planning to write a story about the bakery's financial problems.
The bakery, which was founded by Bey's father in 1968, went bankrupt and stopped operating several months after Bailey was killed on Aug. 2, 2007.