Lawyers began selecting a jury yesterday for the perjury trial of former White House aide Michael K. Deaver, signaling by their questions that opinions about alcoholism and the Reagan administration will figure heavily in their choice of jurors.
Deaver, former deputy chief of staff at the White House and the president's longtime confidant, has indicated that alcoholism will be one of his defenses. The five-count indictment charges him with lying to a congressional subcommittee and a federal grand jury during an investigation of his lobbying activities on behalf of Canada and other clients.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson began the proceeding with a promise that the jury would be "openly empaneled," a reference to an appeals court ruling this summer that forced him to stop questioning potential jurors privately.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court declined to reconsider the appeals court decision.
Nine of the 15 individuals questioned yesterday, however, also were interviewed quietly at the judge's bench, an acceptable practice when an intensely personal or embarrassing issue is involved.
Several potential jurors said they had serious misgivings about the administration's political agenda although all of them said it would not affect their ability to decide the Deaver case.
"Their track record hasn't been real good," potential juror Jeffrey Bolen said. He created one of the day's few humorous moments when he was asked how long he had viewed the administration unfavorably.
"Since January 1981," he replied, referring to the month Reagan took office. Deaver and Judge Jackson, a Republican appointee, smiled.
Meanwhile, independent counsel Whitney North Seymour Jr. charged in a court filing yesterday that Deaver's lawyers had sought to play down Deaver's participation in National Security Council meetings. "He was a functioning adviser to the president . . . on foreign as well as domestic matters," Seymour said. "He did not have to be a Henry Kissinger to make suggestions or give advice that had a substantial impact on international issues."