More than 150 jurors came to the federal district courthouse here, suitcases in hand, as jury selection began today in the trial of Walter Weikers, the suburban Baltimore furniture salesman accused of trying to fix the political corruption trial of Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel.
U.S. District Court Judge Frank A. Kaufman, who is presiding over Weikers' trial, announced early in the proceedings that once the jury is picked, it will be sequestered for the duration of the trial, which is expected to last a week.
The plans to sequester this jury immediately stand out in sharp contrast to the handling of the Mandel trial. Jurors in that case were not sequestered until the last few days of the 13-week trial, after Weikers' alleged attempt to bribe a juror had made headlines in all the news media.
A mistrial was declared in that case Dec. 7, after several jurors had heard a news bulletin about attempts to tamper with the trial.
Weikers, 67, was arrested last Nov. 30 outside the suburban Baltimore furniture store where he works. Immediately before his arrest, Weikers had allegedly offered Mandel juror Oscar Sislen - a relative of Weikers by marriage - a bribe of $10,000 to hold out for the acquittal of Mandel or one of the governor's condefendants.
Despite the widespread publicity surrounding the alleged jury tampering attempts, only three of the approximately 150 Maryland citizens on today's jury panel said during preliminary questioning that they had ever heard of Oscar Sislen. None of the panel said he had ever known or spoken to Weikers.