NEW YORK, NY-- Potential jurors seemed surprised when a judge began jury selection at a police officer's cannibalism trial Friday by describing some sexually violent and deviant conduct they must witness before deciding whether a police officer's plans to kill and eat women were fact or fiction.
And that was before they were handed questionnaires that included staged Internet color photographs of a nude woman hogtied on a roasting tray with an apple in her mouth and another naked woman tied horizontally to a pole over an open fire. A third page was a drawing of a bound naked woman boiling in a glass pot.
U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe spoke matter-of-factly about the trial of Office Gilberto Valle, who is charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping and with unauthorized access to a federal database.
Still, some prospective jurors furrowed their brows and a few scowled as Gardephe touched on the more sensitive subjects while addressing about 100 people just before they went to a separate room to answer 10 printed questions.
Standing at a lectern to give extra emphasis to his request that potential jurors answer questions honestly, he told them the trial would feature emails and instant messages in which Valle discussed in great detail the kidnapping, raping, torturing, murdering and cannibalizing of certain women.
He said the defense would argue that Valle's communications "were all sexual fantasy and imaginary role-play, and that he never intended to kidnap, rape, torture, murder or eat any woman."
Many of Valle's communications took place on fetish websites in which people discuss, view and post images and videos of deviant conduct, including necrophilia, sexual asphyxiation, genital mutilation, rape fantasies, bondage and various forms of sadomasochism, the judge said.
"You will likely see images from these websites similar to the images attached ... to this questionnaire," Gardephe said.
He said the trial would not be a referendum on the websites and jurors would not be asked to address the legality of the websites or the images they feature.
Valle buttoned his gray suit before turning toward prospective jurors as the judge introduced him, along with lawyers on both sides. He has been jailed without bail since his arrest in the fall. Prosecutors say he conspired with three others to kidnap eight "specific and identified women."
After the judge spoke for about 10 minutes, jurors retreated to another room where they filled out the questionnaires before going home before an approaching blizzard.
They were asked if images and testimony involving graphic descriptions of violence, including sexual violence, would make it difficult for them to be impartial jurors and if it bothered them that Valle looked at the images without his wife's knowledge.
They were also asked if evidence that Valle accessed websites devoted to deviant sexual behavior, including highly sexualized violent conduct, bondage and sadomasochism, would affect their impartiality.
They also were asked a series of questions devoted to their own use of the Internet, including how many hours a day they spend on it, whether they engage in online chatting and whether they have ever visited some of the websites likely to be featured during the trial. They also were asked if they wanted their answers to the questionnaire to remain confidential.
While their answers might cause some potential jurors to be eliminated from consideration, others will be orally questioned beginning Monday.
Opening statements are scheduled for Feb. 25. A New Jersey man charged in the case will be tried separately.