Lawyers for evangelist Tony Alamo, who is accused of taking five underage girls across state lines for sex, asked potential jurors Tuesday whether they go to church and whether they have any children.
Alamo, 74, is named in a 10-count federal indictment alleging that girls were brought to him while he was in West Virginia and Memphis, Tenn., awaiting a 1994 trial for tax evasion. Prosecutors allege that other girls were abused as late as 2005.
Under extraordinary security, more than 100 potential jurors sat through questioning by lawyers and U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes. Six members of the 12-person panel were seated by mid-morning. Lawyers will also select two alternates.
Prosecutors asked the potential jurors whether they could trust children to tell the truth and whether they could tell by looking at a person whether he or she was a child abuser. They also wanted to know whether panel members had any opinions about state child welfare officials. Prosecutor Candace Taylor ended her questioning of jurors by asking whether they believed that Alamo "was being targeted by the United States because of his religious teachings?"
Alamo has claimed a Vatican-led conspiracy against him prompted the charges.
"Can each and every one of you assess a witness' veracity, one at a time, regardless of their age?" asked Don Ervin of Houston, Alamo's chief lawyer.
Several vehicles with Homeland Security markings were parked around the courthouse, with uniformed officers nearby. The U.S. Marshal Service said last week that it would have additional officers on duty.
Reporters monitored the first round of questioning by audio feed in a court clerk's office since the courtroom was packed with potential jurors.