NEW YORK (AP) — A judge began questioning Tuesday a few of the hundreds of prospective jurors summoned for the trial of a man charged with killing eight people on a New York City bike path in a terror attack five years ago.
Sayfullo Saipov, 34, who has pleaded not guilty to charges that are eligible for the death penalty, was not in the courtroom for the start of the weekslong process of jury selection.
The government has not yet said whether it will seek the death penalty if Saipov, an immigrant from Uzbekistan, is convicted on terrorism charges.
He was charged with driving a truck into people on a bike path near the Hudson River in lower Manhattan on Oct. 31, 2017.
Saipov emerged from a truck to strike pedestrians with a pellet gun and a paintball gun and shout an Arabic phrase, “Allahu Akbar,” meaning “God is Great,” authorities said. He was shot by a police officer and arrested along the West Side Highway.
At a June 2018 court appearance, Saipov said through an interpreter that he cared about Allah and the holy war being waged by the Islamic State.
U.S. District Judge Vernon S. Broderick told potential jurors that if they are chosen, they won’t return for opening statements until late October or early November. The trial could last until the end of January, he said.
Initially, he is questioning about 15 possible jurors a day among over 700 who filled out questionnaires in August. Some questions focused Tuesday on answers some jurors had given to questions about the death penalty.
One woman, for instance, said that she doesn’t believe in the death penalty, but that she would keep an open mind and make decisions based on the evidence and the facts.
“Personally, I don’t believe in it, but if I have to make a decision, I will,” she said.