With protesters shouting "No justice, no peace!" outside and the dead man's parents sitting with the Rev. Al Sharpton inside, jury selection began Monday in the trial of four white New York City police officers charged with murdering an unarmed African immigrant in a hail of 41 bullets.
The killing of Amadou Diallo touched off widespread demonstrations in New York, where protesters decried the shooting as another case of police brutality against minorities.
The trial is taking place in Albany, 150 miles from New York. An appeals court decided the accused police could not get a fair trial in the Bronx because of heavy publicity and the racially charged protests, which led to more than 1,000 arrests.
"The fact that this case is being tried in Albany County is irrelevant," Justice Joseph Terisi told prospective jurors.
"This case is not going to be decided on anything you might have read or heard in the media. This case is not going to be decided on anything that happens outside this courtroom. You must decide this case on the evidence."
Diallo, 22, was shot in the vestibule of his Bronx apartment building on Feb. 4, 1999. He was hit 19 times. The officers, members of an elite plainclothes street-crime unit who had been looking for a rapist, said they thought Diallo was armed. He was carrying only a pager and a wallet.
The officers could get 25 years to life in prison if convicted. The trial will be televised.
Twelve jurors and four alternates will ultimately be chosen from a pool of nearly 2,000 people _ 20 times the number normally summoned for a murder trial in Albany.
Five jurors were selected Monday, and the first person picked, a black woman who once lived in the Bronx, will serve as forewoman. A second black woman, two white women and a white man also were chosen before court recessed for the day.
About 400 demonstrators staged a prayer vigil outside. Protesters chanted, "Amadou, we love you" and "No justice, no peace!" Kadiatou Diallo, the dead man's mother, said outside the courtroom: "We are praying for Amadou and to achieve justice in a peaceful way."
Diallo's father, Saikou, said: "Shooting him is murder. Shooting him 41 times is discrimination."
Sharpton said Diallo's family and supporters had "come to Albany in peace."
"Those who come in hate, need not come here," he said. "We will never be the hateful ones or the violent ones."
The civil rights leader and the Diallos sat in the back of the courtroom, as did relatives of the accused officers. The defendants sat in front, each at a separate table.
One of the accused officers, Sean Carroll, told reporters he wanted to express his condolences to the Diallo family. "I hope one day I'll be able to sit with the Diallo family and tell them I'm sorry about the loss of their son," he said.
Carroll, 36, was charged along with fellow plainclothes officers Edward McMellon, 27, Kenneth Boss, 28, and Richard Murphy, 27.