After questioning 41 prospective jurors yesterday, attorneys picked a six-member panel in Houston to try two lawsuits charging the Los Angeles Lakers with negligence in allowing former Laker Kermit Washington to punch Houston Rocket forward Rudy Tomjanovich in the face.
"This lawsuit is a rather celebrated lawsuit," U.S. District Court Judge John Singleton said to the prospective jurors. "Can you put everything you've read or heard aside? Can you take a seat in in the jury box and base your decision on what you read, hear and see in the courtroom? "
Two jurors were disqualified immediately, one citing affiliations with the Rockets, the other professing prejudiced feelings about the Rockets.
Singleton ruled that an edited film of the incident could be admitted as evidence.
Attorneys for the Lakers objected that the film, put together for Tomjanovich and the Rockets, had been altered.
Singleton sat in the jury box to review the film after the jury had left the courtroom.
Tomjanovich is seeking approximately $2.6 million in actual and punitive damages, while the Rockets are asking for a total of $1.4 million in their lawsuit.
Washington, a 6-foot-8, 230-pound American University graduate who now plays for the San Diego Clippers, threw one punch that partially crushed the left side of the 6-8, 220-pound Tomjanovich's face.
Washington hit Tomjanovich during the third quarter of a Laker-Rocket game in Inglewood, Calif., Dec. 9, 1977.
Attorneys for the Houston forward say they will ask the jury to find the Lakers liable for damages. The Laker lawyers contend that Tomjanovich assumed the risk by playing pro basketball and that Washington acted in self-defense. CAPTION: Picture, Kermit Washington, left, and Rudy Tomjanovich jockey for position in game after one in which punch was throun., UPI