The trial of a Virginia man accused of throwing pipe bombs at pursing officers began Monday morning with jury selection, with pre-trial publicity.
Laurence Alan Stewart II faces seven counts of attempted deliberate homicide of a law enforcement officer and now attorneys must sift through the daunting task of finding a group of potential jurors who will remain impartial and who have not seen media reports of the alleged highway chase last fall.
With Stewart dressed in street clothes and a heavy law enforcement presence, potential jurors were broken into "flights" or groups, those who indicated that they had heard about the case from previous news reports or articles were questioned by Judge Dirk Sandefur and attorneys from both sides.
Some potential jurors went as far as calling Stewart a "terrorist," others indicated that they had watched various media outlets when Stewart was arrested back in November of last year and knew too much about the alleged incident.
One potential juror told the court that the recent attack on the Boston Marathon conjured up negativity about pipe bombs and told Judge Sandefur they would find it difficult to remain fair and impartial.
Those potential jurors who indicated that they could not be fair and impartial were excused; those that passed and vowed to remain neutral will return Tuesday for official jury selection at 10:30AM.
Stewart also is accused of detonating pipe bombs in Fredericksburg, Va., homes, but the trial getting underway in Great Falls Monday will only cover the Montana charges.
Stewart was arrested near Belt on Nov. 1 after authorities say he led officers on a 40-mile chase in a stolen car while throwing pipe bombs, some of which exploded near his pursuers.
Stewart has pleaded not guilty to the charges.