A panel of 24 possible jurors was chosen at the Old Bailey yesterday and its members told they must come to a verdict “based only on what you hear and see in this courtroom”.
Gary Dobson, 36, and David Norris, 35, both of south London are accused of murdering 18-year-old Stephen in April 1993.
The A-level student was stabbed by a gang of white youths at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London.
Yesterday, Stephen’s parents Doreen and Neville sat in court 16 in seats next to the dock to see the beginning of the trial.
A total of 49 potential jurors was initially chosen before the pool was reduced to 24. Current or former employees of the Metropolitan Police, forensic service and Crown Prosecution Service or their close family and friends were excluded, as were those with a detailed knowledge of the case. Any potential jurors who live in Lewisham, Greenwich, Bromley, Bexley or Bexleyheath have also been ruled out.
The final 12 jurors were to be selected at random today.
Mr Justice Treacy told the 24 that the past history of the case “is irrelevant for the purposes of the decision which you have to make”.
He warned them that they would take a “solemn oath” to give a true verdict according to the evidence that they heard.
The potential jurors were given brief details of the case.
The judge said: “Stephen Lawrence was killed in south-east London in April 1993, and this case is concerned with his death.
“Now, it may be when you have heard the name Stephen Lawrence that it will have rung a bell with some of you.
“There has been, and no doubt will be during the course of the trial, quite a lot of press interest in this case.
“In order to have a fair trial, I must be sure that the members of the jury panel are people who are independent and who don’t have any links to any aspect of the case which might disqualify them from sitting as an independent juror.”
He said the case has “aroused strong feelings” over the years but jurors should do nothing that might jeopardise a fair trial.
Mr Justice Treacy went on: “This trial has been months and months in the preparation. A trial of this nature is extremely expensive to run.
“That’s one very good reason why we can’t afford, literally, to have any disruption to the trial.”
He also told the jurors that there was an “absolute prohibition” on their attempting to research the case on the internet.
The panel was sent home until today, when the prosecution case is due to open.
IT IS more than 18 years since Stephen Lawrence was murdered while waiting for a bus in south-east London.
Charges were brought against two men, but were dropped due to insufficient evidence. A 1999 report into the investigation found the Met was “institutionally racist”.