A jury of seven men and five women has been selected to hear the criminal homicide trial of the Ford Motor Co. here.
Jury selection was completed today. Ford is charged with reckles homicide for the deaths of three young Indiana women who died in the fiery crash of their 1973 Ford Pinto in August 1978.
The company is charged with knowing that the fuel tank design in the car was faulty -- prone to leakage and explosion during rear end collisions -- and failing to either change the design or inform Pinto owners.
The company faces a possible $30,000 fine if convicted in the case -- $10,000 for each death. But the most serious effect on the company would be the impact of such a conviction in dozens of civil suits filed against the second-largest automaker by Pinto crash-fire victims.
The case is expected to break ground in consumer protection and product liability laws. It represents the first time a corporation has faced criminal charges in a product liability case.
Prosecutor Michael Cosentino said he was confident that the predominantly rural Pulaski County jury would be able "to handle" a trial of this complexity.
Ford's lead attorney former Watergate prosecutor James Neal, said he, too, was satisfied with the jury, adding, "We just hope it's fair and impartial."
Several key motions involving the admissibility of some evidence will be argued on Monday, the attorneys said. Opening arguments in the trial, which is expected to last about two months, are expected Tuesday morning.
The jury represents a cross-section of the county.
A railroad trackman, a junk hauler once convicted of drunken driving, an X-ray technician, a telephone serviceman, two farmers, a manufactured-housing salesman, a retired grocer's wife, a coal shoveler at a generating station and a woman truck driver are among those on the panel.
Janet Olson, a 31-year-old truck driver who is the mother of three girls and who also keeps the books for the family trucking business, did not want to serve.
Olson said she would have a difficult time finding a babysitter for her 3-year-old for the two months of the trial, and at one point told the prosecutor that if she was selected to serve she would hold a "personal grudge against the trial."