It was supposed to take at least two days, but after a marathon court hearing that lasted for more than eight hours Tuesday, a state district court seated a jury of six men and six women to hear the long-delayed trial of former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on money laundering and conspiracy charges.
The charges stem from allegations that DeLay laundered corporate campaign contributions made to DeLay’s Texas political action committee through the Republican National Committee and then had the funds donated to a select group of Republicans running for the Texas House.
Under Texas law, it is illegal for corporations or unions to donate money to candidates running for statewide office.
When asked if prosecutors had a smoking gun to link DeLay to the transfers, Travis County Assistant District Attorney Gary Cobb said, “I believe we will be able to pull some [evidence] out that has the odor of smoke about it.”
The jury selection process got bogged down late in the afternoon as the prosecution objected to the defense’s challenges to all but one African-American juror.
Initially, there were six African-Americans on the jury, but the prosecution asked for one to be removed because he was acquainted with potential witnesses in the case.
DeLay attorney Dick DeGuerin, a UT law professor, said the defense objected to one of the black jurors because he was an investigator and they had challenged the other investigators who were in the jury pool. They objected to a second because he wore headphones throughout the hearing. As for the other three potential black jurors, DeGuerin said he objected to them because they “gave me hateful looks.”
Cobb objected and said the defense was using the caricature of an “angry, black person” to push for their exclusion and “that’s not right.”
There are two black women on the jury, one is a juror and the other is an alternate.
DeGuerin said race played no role in the defense’s attempt to exclude any jurors who happened to be African-American.
DeLay’s trial begins Monday.