D.C. Mayor Marion Barry's chief defense lawyer, R. Kenneth Mundy, sought yesterday to end speculation about a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, saying "there is nothing going on" in the mayor's cocaine and perjury case except preparations for trial, scheduled to start next week.
Judy Smith, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Jay B. Stephens, declined to comment yesterday. But sources familiar with the case said the two sides have been unable to reach an agreement that would head off Barry's trial, in which opening statements are expected to begin Tuesday.
As if to underscore that expectation, Justice Department officials wheeled video and audio equipment into the courtroom at the close of the morning session yesterday. The equipment will be used to play the videotape of Barry's arrest Jan. 18 in an undercover sting operation at the Vista Hotel. A large monitor was placed in front of the jury box, and 40 sets of wireless headphones were hung on the rail of the jury box.
Also yesterday, U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson narrowed the list of prospective jurors to 82, and he said the final selection will be made Monday.
After selection, he said, the 12 jurors and six alternates will be escorted by deputy U.S. marshals to their homes, where they will collect several sets of clothing and will be taken to a hotel. They will live there during the trial, expected to last until mid-July.
Mundy's declaration yesterday -- that no one should expect to see Barry enter a guilty plea under an agreement with prosecutors -- seemed to shut the door on the possibility of a deal that would stop the trial.
"Ladies and gentleman," Mundy said as he emerged from a recess in jury selection. "On Monday morning, the trial will start. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that indicates otherwise. There is nothing going on. There is nothing planned to go on. There is nothing being considered. There is nothing being talked about.
"Nobody is sitting by the phone waiting for a call. Nobody is waiting to make a call to somebody else. All that is going to happen is the trial. Believe me, Monday morning the trial will start, and all next week the trial will proceed. Bet on it. Believe it. And don't question it."
In recent weeks, close associates of the mayor have said Barry would be open to a plea agreement if he could be assured he would not receive a prison sentence or be required to cooperate with federal prosecutors. Additionally, the mayor has said he would not resign as part of an agreement and would not plead guilty to a felony.
Last week, Barry enlisted the aid of Jesse L. Jackson, who called for negotiations between prosecution and defense.
Sources familiar with the case have said Stephens would entertain the possibility of a plea agreement, but only if Barry assumed responsibilty and admitted in court that he had used and possessed drugs regularly during the past six years. Sources also have maintained that Stephens insisted on a plea containing at least one felony count.
Sources said Stephens has maintained that the public is entitled to see the evidence in the case, given that Barry supporters have claimed the investigation was racially and politically motivated.
Mundy, Judge Jackson and Assistant U.S. Attorney Judith E. Retchin examined four prospective jurors yesterday, qualifying three for service. Three jurors qualified previously were excused after further argument yesterday.
Final cuts will be made Monday. Until now, prospective jurors could be excused only for "cause," including such reasons as bias, urgent personal business and medical disabilities. On Monday, each side will have a limited number of peremptory strikes, in which they can excuse members of the panel without giving a reason.
According to orders issued by Jackson, this last chapter in jury selection will work like this:
The 82 qualified jurors will be listed in random order, and the first 18 will be placed in the jury box at 9 a.m. Prosecutors will have six peremptory strikes, defense will have 10, and each side will have three more for alternate jurors. The two sides will take turns exercising their strikes. As jurors are excused from the box, they will be replaced by panelists remaining on the list.
When the two sides run out of strikes, or when both sides decline to strike further, the 18 people in the jury box will be impaneled as the jury and six alternates.
Among those appearing on Monday's list will be Aurelia Corbett King, a longtime member of the Democratic State Committee who was qualified after nearly an hour of questioning yesterday. King is married to Wayne King, an aide to Del. Walter E. Fauntroy (D-D.C.). She responded with reticence to questions by Retchin aimed at discovering whether she had preconceptions about the case.
King said that she had been a member from the beginning of the Imani Temple, the breakaway Catholic faction founded by the Rev. George Augustus Stallings Jr., and that she considered herself "a friend of his." But King professed to know nothing about Stallings's views of the Barry prosecution. Stallings has denounced the prosecution as racially motivated and predicted Barry would be acquitted.
"Are you telling us that you do not know Reverend Stallings's position with regard to this prosecution?" Retchin asked.
"No, I don't know Bishop Stallings's position. I'm sure he's the only one who knows his position," said King, who added that she had no opinion of the case.
Retchin, alluding to three counts of perjury against the mayor, also asked whether a person could be justified lying under oath. King replied that "some medications, such as Zantac, may cause you to not remember," and to answer incorrectly.
Barry has said that he once was dependent on alcohol, plus the drugs Valium and Xanax.