Local News

Burmeister Jury Selection Begins

Posted January 21, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— Jury selection has begun in a Cumberland County courtroom where former Fort Bragg soldier James Burmeister will be tried on two counts of first-degree murder. Prosecutors call Burmeister a "skinhead" and say he is so full of racial hatred he killed two African-American who were just walking down a Fayetteville street.

Three weeks have been set aside for jury selection. Attorneys started the process Tuesday that will eventually narrow a jury pool of 154 down to 12 jurors and four alternates. Thirty people were excused Tuesday for hardship and other reasons. Those remaining were asked to fill out a lengthy, eight-page questionnaire.

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

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

Two other former soldiers, Malcolm Wright and Randy Meadows, were arrested along with Burmeister within hours of the crime. Wright will be tried separately in another county. Meadows has pleaded guilty to two lesser charges in exchange for his testimony against Burmeister and Wright.