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Judge acknowledges challenges seating jury for officer's trial

Judge acknowledges challenges seating jury for officer's trial (WPEC)

Seating a jury for the upcoming trial of former Palm Beach Gardens police officer Nouman Raja could be a lengthy, difficult process, the new judge on the case acknowledged Friday.

But Judge Joseph Marx said he would conduct jury selection in the much the same manner he would for any trial— with a couple major exceptions.

Raja is fighting charges stemming from the shooting death of stranded driver Corey Jones in October 2015 on an I-95 exit ramp.

“We’ll be glad when it’s over,” said Sheila Banks, aunt of Corey Jones. “Just waiting for trial, just waiting for justice.”

Banks and other members of Jones’ family joined prosecutors, Raja and his defense team as the judge discussed jury selection and other aspects of Raja’s upcoming trial.

With the trial set to start Feb. 21, Judge Marx had set aside time Friday to address motions and how the trial will be conducted.

“I think getting a jury in this case could take a long time and could be difficult,” Marx said.

Marx said he’s requested a large jury pool -- at least 200 -- and he’ll ask questions, in private, if potential jurors report being exposed to the case.

“We’ll do an inquiry of each juror individually,” he said.

Marx also encouraged both sides to do what they could to discourage demonstrations outside the courthouse by their supporters.

“Any kind of activity like that jeopardizes our opportunity to either seat a jury or have to declare a mistrial at a later date,” he said.

Raja is fighting charges of both manslaughter and attempted murder.

Jones’ SUV broke down on the exit ramp.

Raja, who was working undercover, said he identified himself as an officer and Jones pointed a gun at him. He said he shot Jones in self-defense.

But prosecutors say what’s heard during Jones’ call for roadside assistance and Raja’s later call to dispatch conflicts with the officer’s account.

The judge set another hearing for next Friday to hear a defense motion to address the seemingly conflicting charges of manslaughter and attempted second-degree murder.

Raja’s trial is expected to take three weeks.

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