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Jury Selection Begins in Ryder Shoplifting Trial

Potential jurors are sworn in and asked how they feel about the actress.

October 25, 2002|Anna Gorman | Times Staff Writer

Jury selection began Thursday in the shoplifting trial of actress Winona Ryder, with 33 prospective jurors handed a three-page questionnaire asking if they had heard about the case and how they felt about the Hollywood star.

The jury panel, which was sworn in after more than two hours of closed hearings in the Beverly Hills courthouse, is due to return at 1:30 p.m. today for continued proceedings.

The jury questionnaire focused on publicity surrounding the case, in which Ryder is accused of stealing about $6,000 worth of merchandise from Saks Fifth Avenue.

Jurors were asked whether they have read articles or viewed television coverage about the case and whether they have any sympathy or antipathy toward Ryder, the Oscar-nominated star of movies such as "Little Women" and "Girl, Interrupted."

Superior Court Judge Elden Fox ordered the potential jurors not to watch television coverage or read newspaper articles about the Ryder case. He told them not to talk to friends or family about the proceedings.

Jurors will not be sequestered during the trial, which is expected to last up to seven days, but will be escorted to and from the courtroom by sheriff's deputies.

Ryder, wearing a pink top and a floral print dress, sat next to her attorney, Mark Geragos, and took notes at the hearing Thursday afternoon.

Before the jury pool entered the courtroom, Fox held a lengthy closed hearing on what a Superior Court spokesman later said were pretrial motions.

Fox did not explain what was discussed in closed session. He refused to hear arguments from an attorney representing The Times regarding the closed hearing.

Afterward, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office said Ryder entered pleas of not guilty to the three felony counts on which she is charged: grand theft, burglary and vandalism.

Ryder, who was arrested in December, could be sentenced to three years in prison if convicted.

Opening statements are scheduled to start Monday.

The actress is free on $20,000 bail.

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