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AIPAC judge to probe anti-Jewish bias

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The federal judge in the case against two former AIPAC staffers wants to probe prospective jurors for anti-Semitic views.

Judge T.S. Ellis III of the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., said anti-Jewish bias could be a factor in the classified information trial of Steve Rosen, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s former foreign policy chief, and Keith Weissman, its former Iran analyst.

“I view it as no different from cases in which I have the specter of race in it, where there is some concern that there may be an animus of prospective jurors that should not be operating,” he said in a Nov. 8 hearing. “And of course I am referring to anti-Semitism.”

Ellis also asked prosecutors and defense lawyers for opinions on banning peremptory challenges to prospective jurors that appear to be based on religion. Such challenges, based on the ancient right of lawyers to remove jurors without an explanation, are constitutionally banned in the United States if they appear to be based on race or gender. It has not yet been established whether challenges on the basis of religion or ethnicity are banned.

The transcript of the Nov. 8 pretrial hearing was first made available on Wednesday.

Rosen and Weissman, who were indicted in August 2005, will not face trial at least until March.

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