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Jury selection began today in the second San Mateo County Superior Court trial of a man accused of murdering the daughter of a Hall of Fame football player more than 12 years ago. Mohammd Haroon Ali, 36, is being retried for the murder of Tracey Biletnikoff, the daughter of former Oakland Raider Fred Biletnikoff, in February 1999.
The defendant’s first trial, which ended in 2001 with a first-degree murder conviction and a 55-year prison sentence, was overturned by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in 2009. The federal appeals court found that prosecutors had dismissed at least one black potential juror from the jury pool for improper racial reasons.
Jury selection for the retrial is expected to last about two weeks, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said. Ali and Biletnikoff met in a San Mateo County drugrehabilitation program, where they both received treatment and worked as counselors, prosecutors said.
Ali admitted to strangling Biletnikoff after the two had an argument over the defendant’s relapse into drug and alcohol abuse.Biletnikoff’s body was found on the campus of Canada College in Redwood City on Feb. 15, 1999.
Defense attorneys in Ali’s first trial argued that the crime was manslaughter rather than murder because they claim he acted in the heat of passion. Opening statements in the retrial are expected to begin later this month, Wagstaffe said.
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