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Stevens' Proposed Character Witnesses Heavy On Minorities

Defense attorneys for Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) have issued a proposed list of character witnesses that is heavy on minority representation, a move seemingly designed to appeal to a jury panel that is majority African-American.

Twelve of the 16 members of the jurors - this includes four alternates - are black. Eleven of the 16 are women. Which 12 jurors will actually decide Stevens' fate will be resolved prior to jury deliberations.

On the list of proposed character witnesses for Stevens are four African-Americans, including: former Secretary of State Colin Powell; Gwen Sykes, CFO of Yale University; John Ray, the former D.C. councilman and a one-time Stevens' aide; and William Coleman, former secretary of Transportation.

Powell is scheduled to testify on Friday afternoon. According to a defense motion, Powell "will testify regarding the Senator’s reputation for truthfulness within the federal intelligence and legislative communities as well as his personal opinion of Senator Stevens’s truthfulness."

Stevens' attorneys also want to call Michelle Gonzales, a U.S. Capitol Police officer who served on a unit that guarded Stevens, as well as a World War II pilot who served with Stevens. Other potential witnesses include Donna DeVerona, a former Olympic athlete; an Episcopalian minister from Alaska; and Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), longtime Senate colleagues of the Alaska Republican. Kennedy, who is undergoing treatment for a brain tumor, may be too ill to appear at the trial.

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) was the first character witness called by Stevens' defense team on Thursday afternoon.

Prosecutors have sought to limit the number of character witnesses, and Judge Emmet Sullivan has already signaled to defense attorneys that he views unfavorably any witnesses whose testimony does not shed any new light on Stevens' character.

Defense attorneys, however, filed a motion late Thursday night arguing that Stevens should be allowed to call as many character witnesses as he wants, as long as their testimony is not "cumulative," meaning a repeat of what a previous witness said.

Stevens' defense team also plans to calls numerous Alaskans to rebut specific portions of the government's case against him, including Bob Persons, a neighbor of Stevens from Girdwood, Alaska. Persons helped oversee renovation of Stevens' home, the cost of which is at the heart of the case against the senator. The government alleges that Stevens received extensive work on the home without paying anywhere near the true cost, or reporting the remodeling work as a gift on his annual disclosure form. Stevens denies the charges.

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