The process of choosing a jury to hear the politically sensitive trial of three former state probation department officials is getting underway in federal court.

Former commissioner John O'Brien and deputies Elizabeth Tavares and William Burke are accused of rigging the agency's hiring apparatus to secure jobs for people who had been recommended by powerful state legislators. Prosecutors say the politically-connected candidates were often less qualified than other applicants.

Federal prosecutors filed a motion Sunday asking permission to conduct criminal background checks on potential jurors who move beyond the court's initial screening process.

Prosecutors said the background checks were important to assure a fair trial and prevent problems from cropping up on appeal.

U.S. District Court Judge William Young said it could take three days to choose a jury.