Jury selected in ISIL trial

Published 10:20 am Wednesday, May 11, 2016

By Stephen Montemayor

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Federal prosecutors and attorneys on Tuesday evening agreed on a jury of 16 in the trial of three Minneapolis men accused of conspiring to join ISIL.

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The final jury selection came only after hours of questioning that included further reflection on terrorism and an observation by one eventual juror on the jury’s makeup.

The group, pared from a pool of more than 100 people, was kept later than usual when U.S. District Judge Michael Davis made clear his desire to select a jury Tuesday so opening statements and testimony from the government’s first witnesses can begin Wednesday morning.

Abdirahman Daud, 22; Mohamed Farah, 22; and Guled Omar, 21, are charged with conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and to commit murder outside the United States, with the latter charge carrying a possible life sentence. The trial, on charges filed after an intensive FBI investigation into terror recruitment in the Twin Cities, is expected to last at least three weeks.

Before turning over 36 potential jurors to the government and defense teams for a final round of questioning, Davis continued to press candidates on their experiences with minority groups and whether their opinions on terrorism would prevent them from being impartial when hearing the case.

On the first day of trial, Sadik Warfa, a community leader who has served as a spokesman for some defendants’ families, said that in the interest of fairness, “we must have a diverse jury.”

The jurors selected include eight men and eight women, all white.

Unlike Monday’s opening day of jury selection, which concluded with a disclosure by one prospective juror saying his or her mind was made up and another expressing discomfort with even being in the room with the defendants, more conversations on the topic occurred during “sidebar,” or private, conferences with Davis and attorneys for both sides. Another woman was let go after tearing up and saying she may have “a little too much empathy” for the defendants’ families to fairly consider the evidence.

“My grandchildren look like [the defendants],” she said.

One man eventually selected to serve on the jury later brought up its composition during questioning from a defense attorney who asked about any fears those selected for jury duty would bring to the process.