The trial of alleged drug gang leader Rayful Edmond III and 10 associates, scheduled to begin tomorrow in U.S. District Court here, will feature a judicial innovation never previously used in Washington and employed primarily in New York organized crime cases -- an anonymous jury. Unlike some of the New York trials in which the jury viewed all the proceedings over closed-circuit television, the jury here will be seated in the courtroom. The jury also will be sequestered for the entire trial, expected to take about two months. The trial will be conducted under heavy security in the U.S. District Courthouse's only heavily fortified courtroom. It has a bulletproof shield separating those involved in the court proceedings from spectators, and bulletproof panels to protect the judge and jurors. The courtroom also will be ringed with U.S. marshals. Defense attorneys and some court personnel say several factors will make it difficult to empanel a jury here, including the publicity, Edmond's and his alleged associates' ties to the community and the fact that jurors will be separated from jobs and families for so long. Edmond and the others are charged with operating what authorities say is the District's largest cocaine distribution network. At its peak last summer, it allegedly pumped more than 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of cocaine each week into the city's drug market. D.C. police have linked members of the group to at least 30 homicides. Edmond, 24, also is charged with operating a continuing criminal enterprise, which carries a penalty of life in prison, with parole. U.S. District Judge Charles R. Richey, who will preside over this and two other trials involving members of Edmond's alleged group, issued his order over the strong objections of defense attorneys, who have repeatedly asked for the proceedings to be moved out of Washington because of extensive publicity about the case. Richey did not give specific reasons for ordering the jury to be sequestered during the trial and to remain anonymous. Instead, he cited appeals court decisions upholding the constitutionality of keeping the names of jurors from defendants on the grounds that the jurors' fear of retaliation against themselves or their families could destroy "any semblance of an impartial jury." Defense attorneys said they are troubled by the judge's order. "I'm extremely concerned that we are able to pick a fair and impartial jury of the kind of people who are interested enough in public affairs who would ordinarily read the newspaper or watch television news," William H. Murphy Jr., one of Edmond's attorneys, said last week. Cynthia W. Lobo, who represents Melvin D. Butler, Edmond's alleged California connection to Colombian cocaine importers, said she expects the jury selection process to be "lengthy" and fraught with "great difficulty." "It is not the position of the defense that we want a panel of people who have not listened to the local news," Lobo said. "We believe a change of venue would have been much better." In addition to extensive coverage in newspapers and on television stations here, the alleged Edmond group also was discussed on a four-hour ABC network television special on crime in the District, an edition of CBS News's "48 Hours" program and an article in Newsweek magazine. Murphy blamed the amount of coverage on government leaks. "Unfortunately, the price we may have to pay for the intentional and widespread leaking by the government in the case is that we will be deprived of such a {fair and impartial} jury," Murphy said. "This is a direct result of the efforts by the government, not the prosecutors themselves, to gain an advantage by poisoning the minds of prospective juries against young Rayful Edmond." Richey said in court last week that he believes a jury can be selected in one day, but several recent cases facing similar problems of extensive pretrial publicity have taken much longer to seat a jury. In the trial of former deputy national security adviser Oliver L. North, the final juror was chosen in the seventh day of selection from a panel of 300 prospective jurors. It also took seven days to choose a jury from a panel of 200 in the 1987 trial of former presidential aide Michael K. Deaver. But neither North nor Deaver had the extensive ties to D.C. neighborhoods that the defendants in the Edmond case do. Jurors will be asked if they have "any connection" to dozens of law enforcement officers, as well as to 30 alleged Edmond associates, their attorneys, prosecutors and three persons Edmond is charged with having ordered killed. Edmond and three others are to be tried on the homicide charges in a second trial that is to follow the one beginning tomorrow. In the first trial, Richey has ordered that only the federal court clerk know the names and addresses of the 400-person pool of prospective jurors. Twelve jurors and six alternates are to be selected from the pool. The prospective jurors will be identified in court only by a number, but they face extensive screening to determine whether they have already formed an opinion about the case and whether they can render an impartial verdict. All the prospective jurors were mailed a 21-page questionnaire that includes inquiries about their employment, drug use by themselves or family and friends, prior jury experience, previous involvement in a criminal or civil trial, whether they have been a crime victim and even whether the use of profanity in tape-recorded conversations would affect their ability to render a fair verdict. The prospective jurors also will face extensive questioning in the courtroom on a variety of topics. On trial with Edmond will be a brother, Emanuel Sutton Jr.; a sister, Bernice Hillman McGraw, and her husband, David W. McGraw; the common-law husband of another sister, Jerry Millington; Edmond's aunt, Armaretta Perry; and his cousin, John Monford. Also being tried in the proceeding are Keith E. Cooper, Tony Lewis and James Antonio Jones. Edmond's mother, two other sisters, a brother-in-law and another brother are scheduled to be tried later.