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Burmeister Jury Selection Begins

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FAYETTEVILLE — Jury selection has begun in aCumberland County courtroom where former Fort Bragg soldier JamesBurmeister will be tried on two counts of first-degree murder. Prosecutorscall Burmeister a "skinhead" and say he is so full of racial hatred hekilled two African-American who were just walking down a Fayettevillestreet.

Three weeks have been set aside for jury selection. Attorneys startedthe process Tuesday that will eventually narrow a jury pool of 154 down to12 jurors and four alternates. Thirty people were excused Tuesday forhardship and other reasons. Those remaining were asked to fill out alengthy, eight-page questionnaire.

Included were questions about prospective jurors' exposure to media coverage of thecase, their feelings onthe death penalty and their exposure to racial controversy.

Security is tighter than usual around the courtroom, and attorneys onboth sides have made a conscious effort to keep a low profile. Inaddition, the families of victims Michael James and Jackie Burden havebeen asked not to talk about the case.

Two other former soldiers, Malcolm Wright and Randy Meadows, werearrested along with Burmeister within hours of the crime. Wright will betried separately in another county. Meadows has pleaded guilty to twolesser charges in exchange for his testimony against Burmeister and Wright.

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