As Sheila Dixon's theft trial gets under way, jury selection is not only the curtain-raiser, but also, perhaps, the most important act, according to experts and lawyers not involved in the case.
Race and politics will play critical roles, outside observers say. Dixon's defense team will want jurors who like their mayor and the work she has done, while prosecutors are apt to favor those who will dispassionately review the evidence they present, the observers say.
Dixon, an African-American woman born and raised in West Baltimore, leads a majority-black, heavily Democratic city. The man seeking to persuade 12 people to convict her, State Prosector Robert A. Rohrbaugh, is a white Republican who investigated City Hall misspending allegations for three years before indicting Dixon and a city councilwoman in an unrelated case.