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      Jury selection begins in Panama Unit case

      Federal prosecutors are making their final preparations before they try three former Hidalgo County law enforcement officers for distributing drugs.

      Nearly seven months since the Panama Unit scandal broke, a jury is finally being selected Tuesday for the three individuals who are pleading not guilty.

      Nine others charged in the case have plead guilty.

      The Panama Unit was set up to combat street-level drug dealers in Hidalgo County but its members allegedly used their authority to work with drug traffickers.

      Alexis Espinoza, James Phil Flores and Jorge Garza are the three former law enforcement officers who will stand trial.

      Today the court began the process to select 14 jurors.

      Due to the high profile case, 76 potential jurors were involved in the vetting process, about twice as many as normal.

      Before meeting with potential jurors, federal judge Randy Crane discussed questionnaires with prosecutors and defense attorneys to ensure only unbiased jurors will be selected.

      Crane placed special emphasis on making sure those who have followed the case in the media be dismissed.

      The trial begins July 29.

      The sentencing trial for the men who plead guilty will take place after the jury decides whether these three men are guilty or not.