A Potential Juror in the Lewis Libby Trial

Jury selection continues today in the trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. A former executive producer of Day to Day found himself among the many journalists in the jury pool.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From NPR News, this is DAY TO DAY.

Jury selection continues today in the trial of Lewis Scooter Libby. He's the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, and he's charged with perjury. As NPR's Nina Totenberg pointed out in today's MORNING EDITION report, the process of picking a jury for that trial has been a little unusual. For one thing, the jury pool is about 80 percent white, and only 30 percent of Washington, D.C.'s population is white.

Plus, as Nina pointed out, there have been an awful lot of journalists in the pool. One of them we know. He's our colleague J.J. Sutherland, actually my former boss. He used to be the executive producer of DAY TO DAY. And he joins us now. Hi, J.J.

J.J. SUTHERLAND: Hi, Madeleine.

BRAND: Well, so you got the call for jury duty. Did you have any idea that this would be for this particular trial?

SUTHERLAND: Yeah. I mean, when I got the call, I found the date, and I looked it up on the court schedule and this was the only jury selection going on that day. So I was pretty sure.

BRAND: So were you excited?

SUTHERLAND: Of course.

BRAND: As a journalist?

SUTHERLAND: As a journalist. I mean, you get to - this is a major case. You get to see Vice President Cheney testify under oath. I thought it would be a pretty fun time.

BRAND: So you wanted to be on the panel?

SUTHERLAND: Oh, completely.

BRAND: You did. So who questioned you and what did they ask you?

SUTHERLAND: It was the federal judge, Judge Reggie Walton. And first - it happened in two stages. First, they read this big questionnaire to everybody in the jury pool, and then they called us one by one to ask about our answers.

The questionnaire was sort of, you know, how did you feel about the Bush administration? Did you know anyone on the witness list? Could you avoid the news media for the length of the trial? Did you know any of the prosecutors or Lewis Libby himself?

One of my favorite questions is did you believe that someone could say something at one point, then a few months later say exactly the opposite and it was just a faulty memory?

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRAND: Kind of a leading question, but…

SUTHERLAND: Yeah.

BRAND: So what did you say? What did you answer?

SUTHERLAND: I think the one that got me tossed off the jury was - there are many, many journalists on the list - as Nina pointed out this morning -including people like Bob Woodward, John Dickerson and Judith Miller. And while I don't know any of them personally, I knew people in common with them.

And certainly, one of the people - I know people who know her - is Judith Miller. And I did say I did have a problem with Judith Miller's reporting on Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction on the lead up to the Iraq war, and I might hold other journalists' testimony whom I held in higher esteem as more truthful than her own.

I also said that I couldn't possibly avoid the news media because I actually am the news media. And also, I spent a lot of time in Iraq, and I have to go there next month and I said I needed to keep up with the news in that.

BRAND: OK. So Nina pointed out in today's report that a lawyer whose fiancé actually represents Bob Woodward, the journalist, in this very trial, he did not get kicked off. I mean, you have less of a conflict of interest, it would seem.

SUTHERLAND: Well, I think I do have less of a conflict of interest. I'm not sure exactly what it was that really stepped them over the edge. I assume because Judith Miller's going to be one of the key witnesses for the prosecution that the prosecution was not that happy to have me question her veracity.

BRAND: Well, let's just say we're a little disappointed here, because we were expecting some exclusive information to be fed via Blackberry from the courtroom.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SUTHERLAND: Well, I had that about it, but, you know, I don't really want to go to jail.

BRAND: Right. And given this trial, yes. That would be high on your list. OK, well, J.J. Sutherland, thanks a lot.

SUTHERLAND: Thank you, Madeleine.

BRAND: J.J. Sutherland is a senior producer for us here at NPR News, and he is not a juror at the Lewis Scooter Libby trial.

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