Jury Selection Begins in Rutgers Webcam Spy Case

Dharun Ravi is charged with bias intimidation, invasion of privacy and hindering prosecution.

By Geoff Mulvihill
|  Friday, Feb 17, 2012  |  Updated 1:14 PM EDT
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Tyler Clementi killed himself days after the webcam incident.

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The first phase of jury selection began Friday in the trial of a former Rutgers University student accused of using a webcam to spy on his roommate's intimate encounter with another man.

The case sparked a national conversation about the impact of bullying on young gays after the roommate, Tyler Clementi, committed suicide in September 2010, days after the intimate encounter.

Dharun Ravi faces 15 charges, including invasion of privacy and hindering prosecution. The most serious charge is bias intimidation, a hate crime punishable by 10 years in prison. The 19-year-old Ravi isn't charged in connection with Clementi's death.

But the suicide looms so large in the case that the judge told jurors about it.

About 2,000 prospective jurors were summoned, but most had conflicts that would prevent them from serving in a trial expected to last three to four weeks.

More than 200 were brought to the Middlesex County Courthouse on Friday to start filling out questionnaires. A few dozen of them were dismissed because of hardships, including one man who said that "emotionally" he didn't belong on the jury. He was excused without being asked to explain further.

Lawyers in the case are scheduled to meet Tuesday to go through the surveys and decide which jurors have conflicts or other reasons that make them ineligible. Those remaining are to be brought back on Wednesday for interviews.

It's not clear when the process will be complete and opening arguments will be held.

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