Constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley believes the conviction of Roger Stone, and not just the recommended sentencing, needs to be “reevaluated.”
In light of revelations about a member of the jury in the trial of President Donald Trump’s former campaign official and longtime ally, Turley wondered “was justice undone” in an opinion piece published by The Hill.
“She was Juror No. 1261, and her examination by the federal court and counsel before the trial was anything but notable. And that is precisely the problem,” Turley, who testified as a witness expert during the House Judiciary Committee hearing in Trump’s impeachment inquiry, wrote.
That juror was former Tennessee Democrat congressional candidate Tomeka Hart who, it was later learned had been posting negative remarks about Trump and was anything but unbiased. As prosecutors in Stone’s case recommended a stunning nine-year prison term, the president questioned the impartiality of the presiding judge, US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who was appointed by former President Obama.
It was in the aftermath of the sentencing recommendation that Hart spoke out, revealing herself as the foreperson on the Stone jury while defending the trial prosecutors. Soon uncovered were a “litany of postings not only hostile to President Trump and his administration but also specifically commenting on Stone and his arrest — before she ever appeared for jury duty,” Turley wrote.
The former Memphis City Schools Board president had posted about Stone’s case before she had even voted to convict him on obstruction charges. She lauded special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation which led to Stone’s prosecution and had even accused Trump supporters of being racist.
This certainly looks like evidence that the jury foreman in Roger Stone’s case determined long before she was tapped as a juror that anyone indicted by Mueller must be guilty. https://t.co/YZr4ABx58G
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) February 13, 2020
“In addition to her prior statements about Trump, his associates and this case, Hart is a lawyer. That only magnifies concerns that any bias on her part may have had a more pronounced influence on her fellow jurors,” Turley contended in his op-ed.
He argued that “the most surprising aspect of this story is not the review of her public statements but the review of her examination before trial,” explaining that she did “disclose” her Democratic ties and that she assured the judge her politics would not prevent her from being fair in the trial.
“You’ve also indicated a fair amount of paying attention to news and social media, including about political things?” Berman asked in the pre-trial examination, apparently unaware of Hart’s anti-Trump postings and protests which she apparently did not disclose.
Turley noted that Hart responded that “nothing that I can recall specifically” would cause bias.
“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,” she had said.
Turley pointed out that Stone’s attorney, Robert Buschel, “was either entirely uninformed or utterly incompetent” in his questions to Hart, and that “multiple questions on the jury questionnaire allowed her to reveal her past protests and postings.”
“If this information was withheld by Hart, it raises a question about the veracity of her testimony and, more importantly, the fairness of the trial,” Turley wrote.
“It certainly seems Hart had no place on the Stone jury,” he added. “Hart’s record suggests little that is impartial or indifferent. She was perfectly within her right to engage in such commentary and protests — but she had no right to sit in judgment of an associate of the president after her public declarations.”
Stone’s legal team has requested a new trial in light of the revelations.
Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano argued that Stone is “absolutely entitled” to a new trial in light of an “inherent bias” from the jury member.
“It is the duty of the judge to ensure that both the government and the defendant get a fair trial and if the judge discovers afterwards that there was a built-in inherent bias on the part of a member of a jury against the defendant, that is an automatic trigger for a new trial,” Napolitano explained on “Fox & Friends” last week.
Judge Nap on revelations of biased juror against Roger Stone: ‘Automatic trigger for a new trial’ https://t.co/eipwGqqvT0
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) February 13, 2020
Hart’s “participation raises serious arguments for setting aside the verdict, from the possibility of ineffective counsel to the denial of due process,” Turley concluded in his op-ed. “The burden now is on Judge Jackson to hold a hearing on this matter and address the possible need for a mistrial.”
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