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Preparations for the on-again, off-again trial of a statewide class-action lawsuit against the nation's biggest tobacco companies will begin again Monday, when attorneys and the judge in the Civil District Court case start picking replacements for nine alternate jurors, The (La.) Times-Picayune reported.
The Louisiana Supreme Court this week cleared the way to rebuild the panel of alternate jurors but refused the companies' request that a whole new set of jurors and alternates be chosen to replace those seated this summer. The high court last month ordered Judge Richard Ganucheau to replace four jurors and five alternates after concluding they were biased, which is why nine new alternate jurors are needed now.
The process of choosing the alternates will begin Monday with questioning of 52 people who filled out surveys for possible jury service but were not called to court for interviews this summer. If a larger pool is needed to come up with nine alternates, 200 more prospective jurors will be summoned.
The trial, in which scores of current and former Louisiana smokers seek to force cigarette companies to pay for annual medical tests and programs to help them quit, was to have started in September. The suit contends the tobacco companies intentionally manipulated nicotine levels in cigarettes to keep smokers addicted, a claim the firms have denied.