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Hacking Trial: Prosecution Opening Statement Set for Wednesday

Andy Coulson
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Andy Coulson

UPDATED: The criminal trial against Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and six others continued Tuesday with the selection and swearing in of a jury and legal arguments.

LONDON – The London trial against Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and six others on phone hacking and related charges continued on Tuesday with the final steps in the jury selection process.

The judge also said Tuesday that he plans for the prosecution to start outlining its case Wednesday afternoon.

If the envisioned timetable holds, the opening statement is expected to continue into Thursday, with the evidence phase starting next week.

Prosecutor Andrew Edis told the court he was "very keen" to get started, but defense lawyers said they needed more time to work through the latest documents provided by the prosecution. "You are going too fast," one told the judge and prosecution.

Judge John Saunders said that he understood the concerns, but that he also has a "considerable responsibility" to get through the case in a reasonable amount of time. On Monday, he had said it could run until Easter and had targeted the prosecution to start presenting the case on Tuesday.

He ended up agreeing with the lawyers to plan for a Wednesday afternoon start for Edis' outline of all allegations.

Brooks and Coulson each face charges of phone hacking and conspiring to bribe public officials. Brooks is also charged with conspiring to pervert the course of justice.

The court on Tuesday also finished the process of picking 12 jurors -- nine women and three men -- from an original pool of about 80, or 33 as of Monday night, and dealt with legal arguments. The judge swore in the jury in the afternoon.

The judge called on the jurors to ignore any media or social media coverage they may come across or have previously encountered, saying the case had drawn "perhaps an unprecedented amount of publicity."

"It is absolutely vital that you try this case solely on the evidence and arguments that you hear in court," the Guardian also quoted him as saying. "A significant amount of speculation has been inaccurate and misleading…As you will appreciate, the role of juror is vital, it is essential – essential – that you put all that material that you may have become aware of before the trial out of your mind."

Brooks, the former CEO of News International, the U.K. newspaper arm of News Corp that is now called News UK, and ex-editor of the now-closed News of the World, and Coulson, the former communications adviser of British Prime Minister David Cameron and former News of the World editor, again appeared in court Tuesday along with the six other defendants.

Brooks wore a dark top and skirt, while Coulson wore a light gray suit and blue tie. After sitting on the far right of the dock from the judge's point of view on Monday, she this time took the second seat from the left, with Coulson to her left.

Brooks and Coulson, just as they did on Monday, each wore a remembrance poppy pin, a British symbol used since 1920 to commemorate soldiers who have died in wars. The poppy badges are particularly popular around Remembrance Day, which is Nov. 11.

At one point during Tuesday's proceedings, Brooks' mobile went off, but she quickly silenced it. She was once again seen holding an iPad during parts of the proceedings, while using a notepad and pen during others.

In another one of the lighter moments on Tuesday, the judge asked for a piece of paper, quipping that he was "in short supply." He also drew laughs when he asked reporters if they could hear him, saying some of them seemed to be straining while listening to him.

At least one commentator here has called the hacking case "the trial of the century."

TV cameras and photographers outside the entrance of the court building once again greeted the defendants early on Tuesday, but most lined up a little later than on Monday.

The visitors gallery, meanwhile, drew a bigger crowd than on Monday. Among the visitors was Tom Watson, a Labour Party member of parliament who has repeatedly criticized Rupert Murdoch and co-authored the book Dial M for Murdoch about his company's U.K. newspapers' relation with politicians and police officers.

E-mail: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai