"People like my client are certainly entitled to at least be judged by members of their own race," said Heckman after the Elkins Park woman was rejected by the prosecution. "Looking at the racial composition we've seen here in the last few days . . . very few blacks come to the jury panels. My client is quite concerned - he really wanted that woman."
Of 42 prospective jurors who have been questioned since the trial began Monday, two have been black. Fourteen jurors are needed to serve on the jury, which will be sequestered. Four men and six women have been selected. All are white.
District Attorney Thomas E. Waters said he dismissed the woman, after she underwent questioning by Nicholas, for a host of reasons. Waters said she did not pass a psychological "profile" that he uses for selecting jurors, and added that her relationship to a Montgomery County sheriff - her son-in-law - might affect her ability to be impartial. Waters also said the woman "had opinions on the death penalty that are not in conformity with what we're trying to do today."
"The fact that she was black had nothing to do with it," said Waters.
"It's not for me to judge whether those reasons are valid or not," Nicholas said in response to Heckman's request that he overrule Waters' decision. The judge told Heckman that if it were found that the district attorney systematically disqualified certain prospective jurors because of race, then the defense could possibly seek retribution through an appellate court.
"When you exercise one challenge, I don't think . . . it's an indication of anything," said Waters. "This isn't systematic. This is a single juror. The reasons I stated, be it good or bad, are my reasons."
Jury selection, which continues today, is expected to be completed by Monday.
Young, 40, also known as Yusuf Ali, is charged with first-, second- and third-degree murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person, burglary, criminal trespass and possession of an instrument of crime in the May 27, 1986, slayings. He is also accused of wounding Anmar Zein, 28, the Faruqis' daughter.