If convicted, Thomas Blanton Jr., 62, could be sentenced to life in prison. Blanton has maintained that he was not involved in the Sept. 15, 1963, bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.
About 100 prospective jurors were called. They were given written questionnaires before being questioned individually by prosecutors and defense attorneys. It is expected to take several days to choose a 12-member jury.
Blanton, who is white, was originally scheduled to be prosecuted with another white man, 71-year-old Bobby Cherry, but Circuit Judge James Garrett last week delayed Cherry's trial because of questions about his mental competency.
Prosecutors, including U.S. Attorney Doug Jones, Assistant U.S. attorney Robert Posey and Jefferson County Deputy District Attorney Jeff Wallace, plan to introduce as evidence audio recordings that were made using wiretaps ordered by former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
Blanton, whose father was a well-known racist at the time of the 1963 bombing, was trained in explosives while he was in the U.S. Marine Corps. He and Cherry were linked to a Klan splinter group that opposed integration.
The subject of the bombing was not mentioned during Easter Sunday services at the church in downtown Birmingham. A statement issued by the church said that justice would have come more quickly if four white girls had been killed in 1963.
"While a 38-year delay is not a real source of elation or encouragement, we do believe that it is never too late to do what is right," the statement said.
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