A white construction foreman told a judge he feared for the safety of his family if he had to serve as a juror in the trial of the only person charged in any of the 28 slayings that terrorized Atlanta's black neighborhoods for two years.
The outburst occurred on the the first day of trial for Wayne B. Williams, a black free-lance photographer and would-be musical talent scout who is charged with murder in the deaths of Jimmy Ray Payne, 21, and Nathaniel Cater, 27, the last victim in the 22-month long string of killings. Most of the victims were boys.
"The case is going to get a lot of publicity. I don't know how much publicity the jurors will get. In today's society, it seems like anytime anybody comes to the forefront they become a target for someone," said the man in his early 30s.
The potential juror, who was not excused, cannot be identified under orders issued by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Clarence Cooper.
Williams, 23, has pleaded innocent in the murders and claims he is being used as a scapegoat to justify the $6 million spent for a huge task force that investigated the case.
By afternoon, 16 of the first 48 prospective jurors had been excused for reasons ranging from medical problems to family hardships. All of the jurors said they had read or heard about the case.