"Rockefeller" Kidnap Trial Set To Start

Photographs of Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, also known as Clark Rockefeller, are seen on display during a news conference, Aug. 15, 2008 at a Federal Bureau of Investigation office in Boston. AP Photo/Lisa Poole

Jury selection moved briskly Tuesday in the kidnapping case of the man who calls himself Clark Rockefeller, and the judge ruled jurors would hear the man called by both his real name and the alias he created for himself.

By midday, 10 out of a total of 16 jurors needed for the trial had been chosen.

Rockefeller, whose real name is Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, is accused of snatching his 7-year-old daughter, Reigh, during a supervised visit in Boston in July after losing custody to his ex-wife. He and the girl were found six days later in Baltimore.

Authorities said he planned the kidnapping for months in advance and planned to live quietly with his daughter in a Baltimore condominium he had bought two weeks earlier.

He is accused of grabbing his daughter and putting her into a waiting car, shoving a social worker who was overseeing the visit to the ground and fleeing. The social worker had minor injuries.

The girl's disappearance touched off an international manhunt and a quest by authorities to determine her father's true identity. Eventually, police said Clark Rockefeller was actually Gerhartsreiter, a German man who had used multiple aliases since moving to the United States in the late 1970s.

Before jury selection began, Judge Frank Gaziano ruled that the defense can use the Rockefeller name during the trial, while prosecutors can call him Gerhartsreiter. The judge said he would call him "the defendant."

Peg Rusconi of CBS station WBZ-TV, who is covering the trial and blogging from the courthouse, says that because the defendant is charged with giving a police officer a false name, his attorneys argue calling him something else would be an unfair strike against him.

His defense lawyers had argued that he should be addressed only as Clark Rockefeller because that is the name he has used for more than 15 years and that is the name he was sought under by police when his daughter disappeared.

Many of the jurors who were picked Tuesday told Gaziano they hadn't read or heard anything about the case, which has received extensive media coverage because of his use of the famous Rockefeller name. Others said they had read about the case, but not formed an opinion about his guilt or innocence and could remain impartial.

Some bluntly told the judge they had followed media reports about the case and already had an opinion.

"Basically, I think he's guilty," said one woman, who was dismissed.

Several others were dismissed after they said they had read that Gerhartsreiter has been labeled a "person of interest" in the 1985 disappearance and presumed slayings of a newlywed couple from San Marino, Calif. At the time, Gerhartsreiter went by the name of Chris Chichester and was staying in a guest house on the couple's family property. He has denied any role in the couple's disappearance.

  • CBSNews

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