Jury selection began yesterday for Ramona Africa's lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia, former Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor and former Fire Commissioner William Richmond for their role in the deadly 1985 bombing of the headquarters of her radical back-to-nature group, MOVE. The May 13, 1985 bombing of the MOVE house at 6221 Osage Avenue killed 11 people and destroyed 61 surrounding homes. The homes have since been rebuilt by the city. Africa, who suffered third-degree burns while escaping the MOVE fire, is suing the city and the two former top officials for the "unwarranted and unnecessary" use of deadly force while attempting to serve arrest warrants. The federal civil trial is being heard by U.S. District Judge Louis Pollak. MOVE, a group that advocated a return to natural surroundings, had allowed human excrement and trash to pile up in the front of its rowhouse. Several West Philadelphia residents complained that MOVE members disturbed neighborhood tranquility, assaulted neighbors, bombarded the area with profanity and generally caused a disturbance. The members' refusal to surrender to a search warrant for the house led to the bombing. Africa was convicted of inciting a riot and has since served five years in prison. Defense attorneys and plaintiffs plan to start individual interviews of prospective jurors, who could end up serving six to seven weeks, today. The court will then recess until Monday due to religious holidays. The jury will not be sequestered during the trial, which combines three civil lawsuits seeking unspecified damages. Two of the lawsuits were filed by Alfonso Leaphart and Louise James, relatives of two fire victims. Former Mayor Wilson Goode wrote in his autobiography, entitled In Goode Faith, that he believed the fire that ensued after the bomb fell was the real cause of death. He claimed the actual bombing did not directly kill any MOVE members. "The real cause for their deaths was the stupid decision to let the fire burn combined with the actions of renegade police officers in the alley, shooting to force MOVE members exiting the house back inside," Goode wrote. Jury selection is expected to last at least a week.Comments powered by Disqus
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