Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Once More, With Feeling

Yeah, uh:  no.

Hart (identified only as Juror 1261, but identifiable by her statement that she ran for Congress and other biographical details) was questioned by the trial judge and by defense counsel. After first asking questions about Hart’s prior service on a grand jury, the judge asked a series of key questions:

THE COURT: You've also indicated a fair amount of paying attention to news and social media including about political things?


THE COURT: And when we asked what you read or heard about the defendant, you do understand that he was involved in Mr. Trump's campaign in some way?


THE COURT: Is there anything about that that affects your ability to judge him fairly and impartially sitting here right now in this courtroom?

PROSPECTIVE JUROR: Absolutely not.

THE COURT: What is it that you have read or heard about him?

PROSPECTIVE JUROR: So nothing that I can recall specifically. I do watch sometimes paying attention but sometimes in the background CNN. So I recall just hearing about him being part of the campaign and some belief or reporting around interaction with the Russian probe and interaction with him and people in the country, but I don't have a whole lot of details. I don't pay that close attention or watch C-SPAN.

THE COURT: Can you kind of wipe the slate clean and learn what you need to learn in this case from the evidence presented in the courtroom and no other source?


THE COURT: You actually have had some interest in Congress yourself?


THE COURT: Does the fact that this case involves allegations of not being truthful to Congress, is that something that you think that the nature of the allegations alone would make it hard for you to be fair?


The prosecution declined to ask Hart any questions. Then, defense counsel had its turn:

MR. BUSCHEL: Did you ever work for anyone in Congress?


MR. BUSCHEL: You've worked on campaigns for Congress people running for Congress?

PROSPECTIVE JUROR: I ran for Congress.

MR. BUSCHEL: You ran for Congress?

PROSPECTIVE JUROR: I worked on my own campaign.

MR. BUSCHEL: And you have friends who worked for other congressmen?


MR. BUSCHEL: Do you have any political aspirations now?

PROSPECTIVE JUROR: I don't know, not federal.

MR. BUSCHEL: What might they be?

PROSPECTIVE JUROR: My home state in Tennessee. No local.

MR. BUSCHEL: Just recognize that there might be some media— What are your aspirations?

PROSPECTIVE JUROR: I served, can I just say I served in political office in Memphis in a local office on the school board. So I, one day I wake up and say I run for, you know, office again in Memphis to impact education. One day I wake up and say no way in the world would I do that. So I don't have an immediate plan to run for office.

MR. BUSCHEL: The fact that you run for an office, you're affiliated with a political party. Roger Stone is affiliated with the Republican party, Donald Trump. You understand what I'm saying and getting at?


MR. BUSCHEL: How do you feel about that?

MR. KRAVIS: Objection.

THE COURT: Can you make that question a little bit more crisp? Is there anything about his affiliation with the Trump campaign and the Republican party in general that gives you any reason to pause or hesitate or think that you couldn't fairly evaluate the evidence against him?


MR. BUSCHEL: Thank you, ma'am.

THE COURT: All right, you can step out.

R. BUSCHEL: Thank you, ma'am.

THE COURT: All right, you can step out.

(Prospective juror leaves courtroom.)

THE COURT: Mr. Buschel, you have a motion?


THE COURT: Okay, let's bring in the next juror.

So let’s recap. Stone’s lawyers knew that she was generally familiar with Stone, they knew she ran for Congress, they specifically asked about political bias, and then refused to seek her removal.

Trump’s defenders online are pointing to the fact that she tweeted a few times about the Mueller investigation and even at least once about CSPAN, but that’s thin gruel for claiming a material omission (especially when they’re pointing to only a few tweets out of more than 13,000 she’s tweeted).

Let me note, first, that Mr. Kravis there is one of the four DOJ attrorneys who has withdrawn from this case, and he makes an objection which preserves any error the judge might have committed in allowing that question of the juror.  By that I mean this is a point the Appellate court could consider on any appeal.  But that salient issue here is, actually, the questionnaire of the jurors.  Was this juror (and this is the examination of the juror in question in the tweets above) asked in a questionnaire about tweets?  If so, there is no grounds for a new trial, or appeal, on this issue.  Stone's lawyers waived the issue when the judge asked "Mr. Buschel, you have a motion?" and Mr. Buschel answered "No."  Which means any error Stone's lawyers now say occurred on this point, cannot be raised on appeal.

End of discussion.

Does Napolitano (who should know better) know what the juror questionnaire asked?  He doesn't seem to.  Does he know how this juror answered that questionnaire?  Again, it doesn't appear so.  Is there any grounds for claiming this juror was biased against Roger Stone?  Not based on this examination.

QED. (Besides, a motion for a new trial is just a predicate necessary for any appeal.  The denial of it is almost automatic in all cases, and really means nothing.  But Napolitano's argument\s are unlikely to prevail on appeal, and the interference of the POTUS queers the whole matter in ways highly prejudicial to Stone.  How else to preserve the appearance of independence except to not seem to act in a way favorable to Trump's tweets? Oh, and the motion for new trial, the second in this case, was sealed.  Napolitano is just speculating as to what it says; or somebody leaked it to him.  If the latter, the court may be none too pleased.)

1 comment:

  1. I've never understood the idea that those who choose to remain the least informed are more reliable jurors than people who choose to be informed. Or that people who followed the news were less reliably able to render fair judgement than those who might be addicted to fictitious who-don-its or cop procedurals or the such.

    If his lawyer didn't ask a question or make an objection - it strikes me that people have had courts uphold their death sentences on such lack of action.