James Nielsen Chronicle
Victoria Osteen and her husband, Joel, sit in the courtroom as they talk with her attorney, Rusty Hardin, before jury selection in the trial of an airline flight attendant's lawsuit against Victoria.
After answering questions about their religious backgrounds and opinions on televangelists Wednesday, a jury of seven men and five women was picked to hear allegations today that Lakewood Church pastor and bestselling religious author Joel Osteen's wife assaulted a Continental flight attendant.
Sharon Brown is suing Lakewood co-pastor Victoria Osteen over an alleged altercation the two had on a plane before takeoff on Dec. 19, 2005. Brown is asking for medical and counseling expenses and 10 percent of Victoria Osteen's net worth in punitive damages.
Although he is not a party in the case, Osteen stayed at his wife's side as they walked through the downtown Harris County civil courthouse and sat in court as attorneys spoke to prospective jurors.
Both are expected to testify during the trial.
During jury selection Wednesday, attorneys interviewed 130 prospective jurors for the 12 spots on the jury.
One woman identified herself as a Continental flight attendant who knows Brown. At least 16 people said they had attended at least one service at Lakewood. Some said they had watched Osteen's weekly televised sermons, while others had read at least one of the pastor's books.
Ten people said they probably would give Victoria Osteen more deference because of her reputation.
"He has gotten me through a lot of tough times. I would believe what he has to say. I have a lot of respect for him," a prospective juror said of Joel Osteen.
Others said they didn't like ministers or televangelists.
The Osteens weren't the only famous faces in the courtroom. Former Houston Rocket James Posey was also on the panel, but was not picked for the jury.
Opening statements, scheduled for this morning, are expected to paint two vastly different pictures of Osteen's confrontation with Brown, after Osteen boarded and saw liquid on the armrest of her first-class seat to Vail, Colo.
Brown's attorneys will likely invoke images of privilege and arrogance by accusing Osteen of ordering another flight attendant to clean her seat, then raising her voice and finally trying to get into the plane's cockpit to talk to the pilot.
Attorney Reginald McKamie has said Osteen assaulted Brown as she stepped between Osteen and the cockpit.
Osteen's attorney, Rusty Hardin, is likely to say that his client, who was with her husband and children, asked for napkins to clean up the mess, then had a brief verbal confrontation with Brown before returning to her seat.
Brown claims she lost her religious faith and suffers from hemorrhoids because of the anxiety and trauma of the incident.
State District Judge Patricia Hancock said the trial is scheduled to last about a week, but may end sooner.
Osteen paid a $3,000 fine from the Federal Aviation Administration for interfering with a flight crew member, a fact seized on by Brown's attorney.
"Victoria Osteen was out of control," McKamie has said.
Hardin and Lakewood Church spokesman Don Illoff, who is also Victoria Osteen's brother, have said she didn't touch Brown.
The Osteens paid the FAA fine to put the incident behind them, Hardin said.