published Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Jury selection begins in Auburn tree poison trial

Harvey Updyke arrives with his wife Elva at the Lee County Justice Center in Auburn, Ala., Tuesday, June 19, 2012. Jury selection is scheduled to begin in his trial where Updyke is accused of poisoning Toomer's Corner's historic oak trees on the campus of Auburn University. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
Harvey Updyke arrives with his wife Elva at the Lee County Justice Center in Auburn, Ala., Tuesday, June 19, 2012. Jury selection is scheduled to begin in his trial where Updyke is accused of poisoning Toomer's Corner's historic oak trees on the campus of Auburn University. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

JOHN ZENOR

As jury selection began Tuesday in the trial of an Alabama fan accused of poisoning two oak trees at Auburn's famed Toomer's Corner, lawyers wanted to know about the favorite schools of potential jurors.

Eighty-five prospective jurors filled Judge Jacob Walker's courtroom a few miles from Auburn's campus. Among the questions submitted by Updyke's attorneys: whether potential jurors would "make a decision based upon the defendant being a University of Alabama sports fan."

When the judge asked if they had read or seen reports about the case, all but one of the potential jurors signaled yes. Seven indicated they worked for Auburn University and three said their spouses did.

Defense attorney Everett Wess said selection might continue until late in the week.

Updyke is accused of poisoning the trees after Auburn beat Alabama during the Tigers' 2010 national title season. The 63-year-old has pleaded not guilty on charges that include criminal mischief and desecrating a venerable object.

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