A 12-member jury including four black jurors was seated Tuesday for the trial of four white New York City police officers charged with murdering an unarmed African immigrant in a barrage of 41 bullets.
State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Teresi scheduled opening statements for this morning.
Amadou Diallo, 22, was gunned down in February 1999 in the vestibule of his apartment building in the Bronx, shot 19 times by members of an elite street-crime unit who said they thought the street vendor was armed.
The trial was moved to Albany, 150 miles away, after an appeals court ruled that the publicity made it impossible to find an impartial jury in New York. According to 1990 census figures, the Bronx is about 39 percent white, Albany County about 89 percent.
On Tuesday, the race of the prospective jurors was brought up in open court for the first time by a defense attorney. Two jurors with ties to the Bronx, a white man and a black woman, were added to the panel.
"It's time to talk about race," defense attorney Stephen Worth said at one point. "We're all worried about it on the defense side."
Addressing a black woman with a grown daughter, Worth asked: "Let me ask you as the mother of a 21-year-old black female, maybe do you say to yourself, "That could have been my daughter?' "
"I don't think it will impact how I could listen to the case," replied the woman, who was seated on the jury.
Plainclothes officers Sean Carroll, 36, Edward McMellon, 27, Kenneth Boss, 28, and Richard Murphy, 27, could get 25 years to life in prison if convicted.
The slaying touched off widespread demonstrations against police brutality in New York and strained relations between City Hall and the black community.
On Monday, a pool of nearly 2,000 potential jurors, 20 times the number normally summoned for a murder trial in Albany, was called to the courthouse.
The screening moved quickly despite allegations by both sides that the other was trying to have jurors removed based on race.