Delay’s trials and tribulations move forward

A jury for Tom DeLay‘s money laundering trial was selected quickly last week, but only after the prosecution challenged whether the defense was striking African American jurors without good cause.

The defense cut five African Americans from the jury because, in several instances, he said the would-be jurors appeared angry at him after he had criticized the lead prosecutor, who is black.

Over the defense’s objections, the judge heard the prosecution’s challenge in open court, as opposed to privately, but outside the presence of the jury pool.  After hearing arguments, the judge allowed the defense to keep four of their five strikes, however he did include one black woman on the jury.  In the end a jury was selected that appeared to be a diverse selection of six men and six women. Two alternates, including a second African American woman, also were chosen.

The trial comes five years after DeLay, a former U.S. House majority leader, was indicted on charges of money laundering and conspiring to launder corporate money into campaign donations during the 2002 elections, which is illegal in the state of Texas.  If convicted of money laundering, Delay faces from five years to life in prison. The conspiracy charge carries a prison term of two to 20 years.

DeLay, a Republican, fought being tried in Travis County, the most Democratic county in the state, arguing that he couldn’t get a fair trial in Austin because he was a polarizing leader who led the controversial mid-decade redrawing of the state’s congressional map, which split Travis County into three districts. In August, Delay’s request for a change of venue was denied and now, finally, the trial is moving forward.

Prosecutors took three years to investigate DeLay, and since 2005, the case has been hung up in the appellate courts on numerous pretrial challenges.  The trial is scheduled to start today and is expected to last about three weeks.