PORTLAND -- One of the people who was dismissed during Thursday's jury selection process for the Portland tree lighting bomb plot trial told KGW he has a personal connection to the terrorist attack in Libya.
He explained that because of this connection, there was no way he could have been objective in the Mohamed Mohamud trial.
Blake Alexander was a close friend of former Navy Seal Tyrone Woods, who grew up in Oregon City.
Woods died in the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi last year, along with U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and two other Americans. The consulate was burned down in the violent terrorist demonstration and Woods had been working there as a security officer.
In an exclusive interview with KGW Thursday, Alexander said his friend's death was devastating and he could not assume that Mohamud was innocent in the Portland plot.
"To put my judgment aside for this incidence of taking innocent young lives is a very large difficulty," he told KGW.
Mohamud is accused of plotting to detonate a bomb at the November 2010 Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square. His trial began Thursday with the jury selection.
The FBI contends that Mohamud intended to kill thousands of people when he tried to detonate a bomb at the packed ceremony. The bomb was actually a fake, supplied by undercover agents who Mohamud thought were his co-conspirators.
The federal judge told the potential jurors that he understood some of them had seen news coverage in the case but urged them to put aside any conclusions they had made. Woods' friend said that would have been impossible for him to do.
Portland jury consultant Chris Dominick told KGW everyone has a bias of some sort, but it's harder finding jurors when the issues are so big.
The challenge is implicit bias in a case like this. Both for the terrorism issue and for government intervention and civil liberties," Dominick explained.
Woods wasn't the only person cut from the pool Thursday. The number of potential jurors started out at 85 and it should be whittled down to 14 by Friday night.
The trial is expected to take 2 to 4 weeks. Mohamud's defense team has suggested in court documents that it will pursue an entrapment defense.