Potential jurors looked surprised as a judge told them about the evidence against an NYPD officer accused of plotting to kill and eat women.
Some among the 100 prospective jurors furrowed their brows Friday as federal Judge Paul Gardephe described the criminal conspiracy case against Officer Gilberto Valle. A few prospective jurors scowled.
Gardephe told them the trial will include discussion of sexually violent and sexually deviant conduct. Jurors then began filling out questionnaires that included an exhibit with color photographs. One of them depicted a nude woman hogtied.
Generally, prospective jurors aren't asked to answer written questions, though questionnaires have been used in terrorism trials and in other instances when it's suspected that biases among some people may be strong.
The judge, noting the unusual nature of the cannibalism conspiracy trial, said at a pretrial hearing Wednesday that he wants jurors to know "how critical it is they be candid."
The police officer, Gilberto Valle, has been jailed without bail since he was arrested in the fall on charges that he used a law enforcement database to make plans to kidnap, rape, kill and eat women. Prosecutors say he conspired with three others to kidnap eight "specific and identified women."
His lawyers say he had no criminal intent and his Internet chats and frequent visits to websites depicting sadomasochistic behavior were evidence only of his sexual fantasies. The defense team asked the judge to let jurors see kinky photos it says were part of Valle's fantasy world. Prospective jurors are likely to be asked about any biases they might have toward people who look at pornography.
After some prospective jurors are eliminated by their responses to the questionnaire, the judge will begin asking remaining potential jurors questions orally on Monday. Opening statements are scheduled for Feb. 25.
A New Jersey man also charged in the case will be tried separately.