The Stain on America
If you have ever served on a trial jury, you have a good idea about how that judicial process works. Some folks believe that if they just don’t vote they will never face jury duty but keeping your name off the voter rolls does not guarantee you won’t be summoned. Many state and federal court districts pull prospective jurors from lists of licensed drivers and tax records. So, if you pay taxes or have a driver’s license you have a fair chance of being selected for duty.
Before a juror can take his or her place in a legal trial, they must first undergo a vetting process known as “voir dire.” This bastardized French term means “to see to speak” or “to speak the truth.” In our judicial system, candidate jurors are presented with some facts about the case and then asked questions. For example, I was called for jury duty in a medical malpractice case. The lawyers asked if anyone or their family had a bad experience with a doctor. When I raised my hand and told them my father died after being misdiagnosed with kidney disease, I was dismissed.
A number of consulting firms do instant analyses of possible jurors to help their clients, usually the defendant’s lawyers. You may have seen the TV show BULL, in which the principal character, psychologist Dr. Jason Bull, works as a jury consultant. The jury selection process is not all that complicated. Sometimes a juror gets seated because they have experience with the subject matter. There are times a lawyer wants to seat a juror so they can help others on the panel understand the complexities of the case.
This week, the US Senate is holding a trial with no juror scrutiny, no voir dire and no process to eliminate any jurors with a major bias on the matter at hand. The case involves the 45th President of the United States, who the House of Representatives has accused of a high crime. Click here to read the charges. Simply put, former president Donald Trump has been charged with inciting a riot by asking his loyal followers to go to Capitol Hill and stop Congress from certifying the 2020 Election, which he lost. His act clearly led to an insurrection executed by his fans and political army.
It’s important to point out that the insurrection and the impeachment vote took place while Trump was still the president. Then, last week, 45 Senators voted that the trial is unconstitutional because Trump no longer holds office. That vote was a clear indication that the jury is tainted.
That raises the concept of “jury nullification,” under which a judge can dismiss one or more jurors from being seated after discovering they held a belief that a defendant was guilty or innocent. You probably have heard that an impeachment is a political rather than legal trial. The Constitution provides the presidential impeachment process to give the Congress a way to ban a convicted person from ever again serving as a federal officer. This is the true goal of the Democrats who have brought this second case against Trump.
In a legal trial, if inadmissible evidence is mistakenly or purposefully presented to the jurors, or if any of the attorneys make improper statements during their arguments or examination of witnesses, a judge may decide that the case has been severely tainted and declare a mistrial. In an impeachment trial, however, the judge has no such recourse, even when knowing jury is highly biased.
When Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney’s leadership role was challenged by highly biased reps in her conference, the House took a secret vote to determine her future. Had that been a public vote, it’s unlikely that Cheney would have maintained her leadership role. Some members would have wanted to go on record voting against a fellow Representative who wanted to impeach Trump. Despite the fact he no longer holds office, some still fear the former president. Sad.
If a secret vote was used in Trump’s second impeachment trial, he would probably be convicted, but because each member’s vote will be in their “permanent record,” some will be unable to give a truthful vote. But before getting depressed let’s not forget that Donald Trump will soon face full legal trials with real juries. There are federal, state and local legal cases building to bring him to judgement for things like election law violations, tax fraud and evasion, jury tampering, election result tampering and, of course, inciting a riot that killed people. Trump ordered his mob to the Hill, they rioted, and several people lost their lives in the melee. Surely a wrongful death civic suit is on the way, which will cost Trump tons of money to defend himself and even more if he loses.
If I were to be called for jury duty on any case against Trump, there is no way I would be seated. I am just as biased as those Republican Senators who would vote to acquit Trump no matter what the charge. How is that justice for all? A prosecutor would be screaming bloody murder in a legal courtroom where a judge would allow such biased people to be seated on a jury, but in this impeachment trial only Senators can decide, regardless of their prejudices. Their seats were awarded by votes of the people, who were never asked to consider whether a candidate would be free from their political party’s mandates when voting in Congress. It’s a case of let the buyer beware.
The two Senators in my state of Florida, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, are hardcore Republicans who would acquit the Donald even if he were charged with murder. But wait. This is a murder case. Do they truly believe Trump didn’t cause the riot? We’ll never know. There was no voir dire requiring evaluation of their feelings before being seated on the jury.
This second impeachment trial of Trump is a tainted event in our history and a dark stain on America. For three hours, the former president failed to act during the riotous insurrection that he ignited. The man is guilty of many things, but the Republicans want to sweep them all UNDER the carpet instead of calling Donald John Trump ON the carpet for his numerous derelictions of duty. It’s a kangaroo court, and plenty of people are jumping mad — including me.
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Gold, God, Guns & Goofballs: If you only read one chapter of this book, try “Take a Knee for America” and think about our never-ending conflicts between minorities and the police. I’m not asking you to take a stand but having a deep and honest conversation about why some people think the way they do would be productive. This is a book for the moment which seeks to start a conversation about peace. And if you are worried about social media, you really should check out the chapter called “Social Media Menace.”