The first streaks of light were beginning to break through yesterday when someone in the van pool from Prince William County spotted two Lorton buses in an adjacent lane of Interstate 95 heading into the District.

"There's Marion Barry now!" joked one rider.

"No, that's the jury. They sequester them over in Lorton," quipped another.

A third passenger offered: "Those are the witnesses; the witnesses are all from Lorton."

The van, driven by labor specialist Barry Sherry, had 11 riders, all employees of the federal government who work in Washington, most of them from Prince William.

They spent most of the hour-long commute discussing the trial of Mayor Marion Barry and its intense media coverage, just as others across the region did throughout the day, at a barbershop in the District, a senior citizens center in Montgomery County and a park bench in the city.

Testimony in the Barry trial has had a four-week run now and continues to dominate the evening news, the morning headlines and daily conversation. The mayor was declared guilty in the van pool, entrapped in the barbershop, a recipient of mixed reviews in the senior center and a survivor on the park bench.

"I already have established my prejudgment, right or wrong, the same as I did with Pete Rose," said Scott Templeton, a van pooler who works for the U.S. Postal Service. "The legal system has set it so he will either get convicted or get off free, and I have no say in that."

So what is his prejudgment?

"Without getting into the details, my prejudgment is guilty," Templeton said.

Shouting to the driver, he asked, "Hey, Barry, have you made any prejudgments in the case?"

"Absolutely not," Sherry said.

That drew hoots.

"You are ducking the issue; you sound like somebody who works in labor relations," called Postal Service worker Bob McDonald from the back of the van. "Get off your high horse and call the shot. Is he guilty or innocent based on the evidence you have seen in the newspapers and on television?"

Sherry had an answer. "The defense hasn't had an opportunity to present its case," he said.

"I didn't ask if the defense had its chance," said McDonald. "I said, based on what you have seen and read so far: Guilty or innocent?"

While Sherry held his tongue, other riders didn't.

"He is guilty of using drugs, I think that is obvious," said Sandy Cohen, of the Internal Revenue Service. "But I don't think the jury is going to be deciding that question. The question is whether they are going to let him off because he is black."

Duane Neiner, who works for the Federal Aviation Administration, offered another view:

"The losers are the children of the world. Pete Rose was another example. You have to have a hero or someone to look up to, and whatever the reason, this guy was lying. He was putting on like he was a good hero, and a role model, and he is not."

"Should they use entrapment to catch a politician doing wrong," another voice asked.

McDonald said, "They can trap him any way they can get him. Why not? If he's a crook, let's find out if he is a crook . . . . That guy walked in there and smoked that stuff. Nobody was beating him on the head to do it. The bad thing is, he's probably going to be found guilty. They have to find him guilty, but the black people of D.C. are going to find him not guilty.

"The race problem it is going to create. It is the blacks against the whites now."

After more discussion, McDonald offered a final word: "You have to do dirty things to catch dirty deals. What is wrong with that?"

At Freeman's Unisex House of Style at Seventh and Kennedy streets NW, three men in chairs were getting haircuts and five or six other heads were either waiting their turns or simply getting out of the rain.

The topic was the same, and according to one barber who gave his name only as Keith, that hasn't changed much since the trial started.

"It seems like the more the media hypes it up, the more people talk about it," said Keith, as he shaved the sides of a restless little boy's head.

"Every day, all day, that's all people talk about," said proprietor Herbert Freeman. "I don't really have that much feeling about it, but I don't like the way they trapped him."

There were nods and grunts of agreement from the others. The man whose hair Freeman was trimming appeared to bob his head in agreement, but he could have just been making way for the scissors.

"I don't condone what the mayor did, I just don't like how the government is going about the trial," said a man waiting for his turn in the chair.

"He's a black man, and I'm going to stick by my brother," someone else chimed in. "If it had been a white man, the trial wouldn't have been held like this."

"You know that," someone called out. Everyone laughed.

"He's my man," crowed a man holding a bag of groceries. "They haven't had an honest person on the stand yet."

"Talk to him, talk to him," laughed Keith, pointing to the man with the groceries. "He comes in here every day."

The man gave a look of mock offense. "Now, that's the kind of people they got on the stand," he said, pointing toward Keith and chuckling. "They get up on the stand and lie."

Everyone laughed, scissors snipped, clippers buzzed and the conversation moved on to other, more pressing things: the weekend and the rain.

Just before noon, in the poolroom of Montgomery County's Holiday Park Senior Center in Wheaton, a dozen men gathered around three pool tables, positioning themselves for their shots. They muttered in disappointment when they flubbed their shots and in pleasure when they didn't.

But when they were asked what they thought about the Barry trial, the muttering stopped.

First laughter, then a cacophony of voices filled the room. Here's the story according to Bill Monday, 68; Homer Earisman, 73; Sol Scherer, 71; Walter Beltowski, 67; George Rutherford, 63; and Ishmael Latimore, 88.

"It's too much. Who cares?"

"That is D.C., not us."

"Who's paying for all of this? We are!"

"They aren't going to do anything with him."

"He's going to get off."

"Mistrial. It's going to be a mistrial."

"He'll be sent some place with a palace."

"It was all put up by the government to get him out of office."

"If they find him guilty, they'll burn that city down."

"I don't think so."

"Yeah, but you have that {Louis} Farrakhan and that Catholic preacher {Bishop George Augustus Stallings Jr.} . . . a bunch of troublemakers."

Beltowski offered this:

"Most people figure he's guilty. They feel the same way about Neil Bush. Race has nothing to do with it. If you're wrong, you're wrong."

With that, Beltowski grabbed his cue and prepared to shoot.

Willie Clamton epitomized contentment as he sat on a park bench near Seward Square on Capitol Hill in the afternoon. Puffing on his King Edward cigar and massaging his feet, Clamton had just finished what he described as a "pretty good meal" provided by the Washington City Church of the Brethren -- "the church of the brothers," Clamton called it.

Then he offered an informed soliloquy on the trial. "I think it's going to be a hang jury," Clamton said.

Clamton, who described himself as temporarily homeless, is one of thousands of area people who have closely followed the mayor's trial. Like an ongoing sporting event, Clamton knows the players and the issues intimately. He scours through newspapers he pulls from trash cans and makes it a point to be around the courthouse when the television crews broadcast their live shots, so he can glimpse their monitors.

Admittedly a "100 percent" Barry loyalist, Clamton said that if the mayor "did all the things they say he did, he'd be dead."

"They done brought in too many witnesses. Someone on that jury is going to get {angry}. They did that with {David} Rivers and look at that: They cut him loose," Clamton said, referring to a federal jury's acquittal Thursday of the former director of the D.C. Department of Human Services on bribery and conspiracy charges.

"And them women," Clamton said. "I don't know where they get them from. He didn't have to go to the Virgin Islands for that."

Which reminded Clamton of Effi Barry. "He's got a nice wife," he said. "Her book'll sell if she don't cut his throat and make him bleed too bad."

He is confident the mayor will survive. "A guy with his wits, he'll get a good job. Something like construction. A person would be glad to have a guy like {Barry}. Put him over about 120 men."

All in all, Clamton believes that what Barry does on his own time is nobody else's business.

"The way I see it," Clamton said, "is that Barry has two pounds of good and one pound of bad. You got to weigh the difference in the man."

Staff writer Jill Nelson wrote this article with reports from staff writers Ruben Castaneda, Carlos Sanchez and Molly Sinclair.