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Jury Pool: McDougal's OK

Some potential jurors in Susan McDougal's embezzlement trial said they admire the Whitewater figure for choosing jail over testifying against President Clinton.

"She strikes me as a determined person," one possible panelist said Wednesday, during the third day of jury selection in McDougal's trial for allegedly stealing $150,000 from symphony conductor Zubin Mehta and his wife, Nancy.

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The case is unrelated to the Whitewater investigation, which is looking into the president's role in the failed 1980s land deal.

"Would you say you admired Miss McDougal?" Superior Court Judge Leslie Light asked the male juror.

"Yes," he replied. "For not being bullied or intimidated."
Earlier, about 70 members of the jury pool completed questionnaires detailing their knowledge and opinions of McDougal's much-publicized involvement in the Whitewater development.

Potential panelists also were asked their feelings about her imprisonment for not testifying against President Clinton before independent counsel Kenneth Starr's federal grand jury.

Judge Light then individually questioned all who expressed strong opinions pro and con about McDougal. That was half the pool.

At least three were dismissed Wednesday because of personal bias.

One woman who was excused for liking McDougal mouthed "Good luck" to the defendant before leaving.

Another man was dismissed for saying he was "skeptical of Susan McDougal's integrity."

McDougal, 43, is charged with 12 counts of embezzlement and tax fraud stemming from her employment as bookkeeper and personal assistant to the Mehtas from 1989 to 1992.

A panel of 12 jurors and six alternates is expected to be chosen by next week. The trial is expected to begin Sept. 8 after a recess.

McDougal spent nearly two years in prison on civil contempt-of-court charges after refusing to testify before the federal grand jury investigating Mr. Clinton. She also served three and a half months of a two-year sentence for fraudulently obtaining a government-backed loan in 1986.

Her late ex-husband, Jim McDougal, and former Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker, were convicted of financial misdeeds connected to a savings and loan owned by Jim McDougal.

Earlier this year, Starr charged McDougal with two counts of criminal contempt for declining to testify before his grand jury. She awaits federal trial on those charges.

Written by Deborah Hastings