5 jurors seated for NY cop's trial

May 19, 2008 5:11:16 PM PDT
Five jurors were picked Monday for the trial of a former policeman accused of killing a homeless Guatemalan immigrant in the New York City suburbs.George Bubaris, who resigned from the Mount Kisco force in March, is accused of manslaughter in the death of Rene Perez, 48.

Perez, who had a long history of drunkenness and arrests, called police from a coin laundry on the night of April 28, 2007. Prosecutors say Bubaris, 31, drove Perez to an out-of-the-way area in neighboring Bedford, "inflicted blunt force trauma to Perez's abdomen" and left him to die.

On Monday, Bubaris arrived at Westchester County Court with a new look, wearing glasses and abandoning his shaved-head look for a nearly full head of hair.

About 120 potential jurors filled a large courtroom in Westchester County Court, and 24 of them were questioned by state Supreme Court Justice Lester Adler and the lawyers. They included one Mount Kisco resident; a cousin of a Mount Vernon policeman recently killed by other officers; and WABC-TV newsman Tim Fleischer. Those three were quickly excused.

Also excused were four of the five college students, just starting their summer vacations, who had been randomly called into the group of 24. Defense lawyer Andrew Quinn said that made for "a somewhat unusual number of young people" and questioned them closely about whether they would be swayed by older jurors.

The killing has raised questions about the relationship between police and homeless immigrants, most of them Hispanic, in the suburbs. Before the court session, Fernando Mateo, president of Hispanics Across America, said his organization would be monitoring the jury selection.

When one potential juror told the judge, "I do have a problem with illegal aliens," he was quickly excused. Later, Assistant District Attorney James McCarty told the potential jurors, "This is not a referendum on United States policy vis-a-vis immigrants."

A list of potential witnesses was made public Monday, so jurors could tell the judge if they knew any of them. It included some of Bubaris' Mount Kisco colleagues, Bedford police, medical examiners, Bubaris' former lawyer, and billionaire investor Nelson Peltz, whose Bedford estate has surveillance cameras that reportedly recorded a Mount Kisco police car on the road where Perez was found.

Despite extensive news coverage of the case, about half the potential jurors questioned said they'd never heard of it.

Jury selection is to resume Tuesday and the judge scheduled opening arguments for Wednesday afternoon.