DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - Two groups of more 125 people are being interviewed Wednesday as jury selection gets underway in the terrorism case against the Hutaree.
Prospective jurors have been called to federal court in Detroit to fill out questionnaires in the trial of seven people charged with trying to stir rebellion against the government.
The work starts Wednesday. Answers to the almost 100 questions in the 30-page questionnaire will help lawyers and Judge Victoria Roberts pick a jury.
Roberts said jurors will be “thrust into the eye of a storm” in a case that began with raids and arrests in southern Michigan in 2010. The judge said attorneys will know their names but the public and even the defendants will not.
Reporting from the courthouse Wednesday afternoon. WWJ’s Pat Sweeting said one question caused a juror to be called before the judge. “He had concerns about about the question about gun licensing and gun ownership,” reported Sweeting.
“He said he owns about 75 guns and doesn’t have licenses for all those guns. So, he had some concerns about that and was refusing to answer the question.” she said.
Seven people are accused of belonging to a militia called Hutaree, based in Lenawee County. The government claims they were scheming to kill a police officer, then attack the funeral.
Proving it will be a daunting task for federal prosecutors, according to Wayne State Law School professor Peter Henning.
“It’s not going to be an easy case for prosecutors because they’re going to need to show enough proof for each defendant, that each was involved in the different acts, in seditious conspiracy’ and the attempt to use weapons of mass destruction,” said Henning.
The defense says they said stupid things, nothing more. They contend they were simply exercising their constitutional right of free speech and never actually intended to overthrow the government.
“An issue that the defendants are going to raise, that they were exercising their rights, and you are allowed to talk about your disagreements with the government and even more generally to talk about using violence, as long as it doesn’t go beyond that,” said Henning.
Henning said the government’s case hinges heavily on the testimony of an undercover agent who infiltrated the militia group.
“People don’t normally write down what they intend to do so, the government is going to be relying on not only the video tapes but also the testimony of the undercover agent that it put inside the Hutaree,” said Henning.
The trial is set to begin February seventh.
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