Eighty-seven prospective jurors in the "cannibal cop" case were shown three graphic images of sexual violence Friday as part of a jury questionnaire approved by U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe to determine who can judge the case impartially.
The images were found on websites visited by NYPD cop Gilberto Valle, 28, who is charged with plotting to kidnap and eat women. He says he was just fantasizing and role-playing on the Internet.
Candidates for the jury showed a range of expressions -- from scowls to raised eyebrows -- as Gardephe told them about the case and warned about the images and topics of sadomasochism, bondage and other deviant conduct discussed on websites and chat rooms that Valle visited.
"It is vitally important that those chosen to serve on this jury not have such strong reactions to these topics and practices that it will be difficult for them to be fair and impartial," Gardephe said.
The questionnaires explore prospective jurors' familiarity with the case and feelings about pornography and deviant practices. They will return to court next week for individual questioning by the judge and lawyers.
Because of the sensitive nature of the case, the questionnaires asked prospective jurors whether they want to keep their answers -- or their identities -- confidential. The trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 25.
Valle maintains that he has been drawn to imagining deviant sexual practices since he was a teenager, but never intended to carry out any of the fantasies he discussed.
Gardephe, over government objections, ruled this week that two psychiatric experts may testify on Valle's behalf.
Federal prosecutors last year said Valle's Internet chats targeted women he knew and that he surveilled some of them in preparation for kidnapping.
Prosecutors cited data from towers that his cellphone used while making calls that could place him on the blocks where some of the women lived. They have since conceded that the cell tower data are not precise enough to make that claim.
Gardephe is now considering a defense request to bar all cell tower evidence, which would weaken the government's case.