- The Washington Times - Monday, January 6, 2003

MIAMI, Jan. 6 (UPI) — A federal trial began Monday for 11 former Miami police officers charged with covering up four shootings in 1995 and 1996, three of them fatal.

Lawyers on both sides and U.S. District Judge Alan S. Gold began wading through a pool of more than 200 jurors, a process that will take as long as a week.

The prospective jurors were chosen from a pool of more than 1,000, but the remainder returned forms that said they knew too much about the case to render an unbiased verdict. Some even submitted newspaper clippings of stories about the shootings to illustrate the point.

Attorneys in the case are under a gag order, but the defense has contended in the past that the 11 defendants are being used as scapegoats.

There are more than 100 names on the witness list, and the trial could take anywhere from a month to five months.

Two of 13 officers originally charged have pleaded guilty and will testify for the prosecution.

The first case started Nov. 7, 1995, on an interstate highway where two men were caught trying to hold up two tourists in their car. The two black suspects were shot to death, and prosecutors say six officers plotted over lunch the next day to get their stories straight.

On March 12, 1996, officers fired 123 shots into the house of alleged drug dealer Richard Brown, 73, killing him. Prosecutors said officers planted a gun outside a window of the African-American's house.

On April 13, 1996, officers shot three times at a fleeing purse-snatcher but missed. Other officers allegedly delivered another "throw-down" weapon to the scene.

On June 26, 1996, a homeless alcoholic was wounded in the leg when officers mistook a radio in his hand for a gun. Another "throw-down" weapon was placed at the scene, prosecutors said.

The trial began on the same day as the city swore in a new chief of police, John Timoney, a former Philadelphia police commissioner. He promised to be tough on police wrongdoing.

"When an officer commits a wrong act with evil intent, then there must be no safe harbor for such an individual in this city or any city, and they must be rooted out for the profession," Timoney said.

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