The case includes 12 homicides carried out or ordered by Savage, according to an indictment handed up in 2009. The victims include two women and four children killed in the firebombing of a house in North Philadelphia in 2004.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Savage, 37, and codefendants Robert Merritt, 31, and Steven Northington, 40.
A fourth defendant, Savage's younger sister Kidada, 30, faces life in prison.
"These were not just drug dealers selling drugs," then-U.S. Attorney Laurie Magid said in April 2009 after a 25-count indictment against Savage was unsealed. "They were ruthless murderers."
Prosecutors hope to use Savage's own words - hundreds of secretly recorded conversations may be played as evidence - to win a conviction. But first a jury must be selected to hear the case before U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick.
The process will begin Sept. 26 when a panel of 250 candidates will be brought in to fill out a questionnaire. A second panel of 250 will report the next day.
Potential jurors will be presented with about 120 questions on topics ranging from their feelings about capital punishment to their knowledge of the high-profile case. They will report back to court Nov. 5 for individual questioning by prosecutors, defense attorneys, and the judge. Twelve jurors and six alternates are expected to be chosen.
The trial is scheduled for Jan. 7.
Convicted in 2005 for drug dealing, Savage is already serving a 30-year sentence.
Among the charges he faces is that, while in prison awaiting trial in that case, he ordered the October 2004 firebombing of a North Sixth Street rowhouse in which six people, including four children ranging in age from 15 months to 15 years, were killed.
The victims included the mother and infant son of Eugene "Twin" Coleman, a Savage drug-dealing associate who was then cooperating with the government and who testified in the 2005 trial.
Several former members of the Savage organization, including Coleman, are expected to be called as witnesses in the new trial.
Prosecutors will also play secretly recorded conversations, from wiretaps and from an electronic listening device planted in Savage's prison cell, in which he threatened to kill potential witnesses and their family members.
"I have dreams about killing their kids . . . cutting their heads off," he said in one oft-quoted conversation.
Seven of the 12 killings listed in the pending indictment, including the firebombing, were connected to witness intimidation, authorities allege.
Kidada Savage is accused of setting up the firebombing on her brother's orders. Merritt and Lamont Lewis, another Savage associate, allegedly carried out the attack, throwing a gasoline bomb into the rowhouse early in the morning while the six victims were asleep.
No one escaped the inferno, including a pet dog.
Lewis has agreed to cooperate with authorities and will be a key witness at trial.
Several motions are pending in the case, including a request by Savage's lawyers for court permission to take the electronic deposition of Barbara Savage, the mother of Kaboni and Kidada.
Barbara Savage has been described in a defense motion as "very ill," and the defense has asked to take her sworn statement "in the event that she is unavailable at a later time."
Defense attorneys have indicated that they would use the deposition in any penalty phase of the proceeding.
If Kaboni Savage is convicted of murder, the jury would have to hear additional testimony during a penalty phase in which aggravating and mitigating factors are introduced. The jury would then decide on life in prison or a death sentence.
Barbara Savage's testimony would be used to present mitigating factors should they be necessary, the defense motion suggests.
Jury selection in the federal case against convicted drug kingpin Kaboni Savage to begin. www.philly.com/savage
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