Three out of 12 jurors have been selected to serve on the federal court panel that will hear lawsuits against the city and two former top officials for their role in the deadly 1985 MOVE bombing. Two women and one man were selected from a pool of 170 jurors Monday and Tuesday, according to Andre Dennis, attorney for Ramona Africa, who filed one of three suits. Africa was the only adult to survive the MOVE fire. A total of eight jurors and four alternates will be selected for the case. Thirty people already have been dismissed on the grounds that serving on a jury would be a hardship. 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 in 1985. Several West Philadelphia residents complained that MOVE members disturbed neighborhood tranquility, assaulted neighbors and bombarded the area with profanity. The May 13, 1985, bombing of the MOVE house at 6221 Osage Avenue killed 11 people and destroyed 61 surrounding homes. "To allow what happened on May 13 to be sanctioned by a jury would be very disturbing to me, as an American and as someone who loves the Constitution dearly," Dennis said. Africa, who suffered third-degree burns while escaping the fire, is suing the city, former Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor and former Fire Commissioner William Richmond for the "unwarranted and unnecessary" use of deadly force while attempting to serve arrest warrants. Two of the three lawsuits were filed by Alfonso Leaphart and Louise James, relatives of two fire victims. Dennis said prospective jurors are required to fill out extensive questionnaires to be considered for jury selection. Attorneys also evaluate the jurors with follow-up interviews. "We hope that we'll be finished with jury selection by the end of the week," Dennis said. He explained that the case only now being heard 11 years after the bombing because of a number of legal decisions. "It has taken this long due to various opinions in the case addressing issues such as qualified immunity and viability of plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights," Dennis said. He added that U.S. District Judge Louis Pollak finally entered a bench opinion in January, which addressed the viability of state claims with respect to individual defendants. Dennis said the April 2 trial date was established at that time. The jury will not be sequestered during the trial.Comments powered by Disqus
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