The challenge of selecting a jury for the “Scooter” Libby trial

With the trial of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby a few days underway now, lawyers for the defense are having a problem I hadn’t even considered – finding a jury with which they have a chance of getting Libby a not-guilty verdict or a hung jury. What little I’ve even considered the trial, I was focusing on the stories in the press over the initial leak, how Libby is perceived by potential jurors, and how much potential jurors knew about the story. A real problem for the defense comes down to finding jurors who are likely to believe Vice President Cheney if he is called as a witness.

“I am completely without objectivity. There is nothing you can say that would make me feel positively about President Bush.”*

Thus spake the eighth of nine prospective jurors reviewed by Judge Reggie Walton, Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and defense attorneys Ted Wells and William Jeffress today. She had indicated on her juror form she had some strong opinions about the Bush administration, and, queried in her turn by Judge Walton, she cast her eye over all assembled in the courtroom and declared herself.

“So, you are saying you do not believe you could render a fair and impartial verdict in this case, based on the evidence and according to my instructions to the jury prior to deliberations?,” Judge Walton followed.

“That’s right,” she responded, whereupon she was immediately excused from jury duty.

I hadn’t even thought about how the Bush/Cheney approval numbers would play into that. I know that’s mighty naïve of me, but I hadn’t given it much thought.

Therein lies the challenge for Team Libby: of the nine jurors reviewed in depth today, three were excused. Two I’ve described to you, and one was excused due to the demands on her time of her work commitments as a free lance contractor paying the rent month to month. What’s telling is this: no jurors were excused for cause based on any predispositions that might prejudice them against the prosecution. Just the defense.

. . .

The national polls are what they are. The president is wildly unpopular and growing more so with his every subsequent utterance; Dick Cheney is even less popular than President Bush. The public overwhelmingly is rejecting the administration’s policies and reluctantly coming to the conclusion that, at best, the administration innocently provided bad information to the country, but is intransigent in the face of developing reality. And through all this, to attempt to get a fair trial, Team Libby must scratch to find jurors without strong opinions or preconceptions on these matters, in Washington, DC, of all places (more than one potential juror, when asked if they had heard or read of any controversy alleging the administration had provided the country with bad information in making its case for war, replied, “In this town? Are you kidding?”).

And then, the problem is compounded by the location of the trial. I could see this one ending up getting moved to another venue and started over just to try getting a “fairer” jury pool for Scooter (for some unknown value of “fair”).

Of course, this is just the coverage from day 1. We’re about to start day 5. I guess it’s time to see what we can find on Google news to read more recent news and see how the trial is going. (via Victoria Kos)

[tags]Scooter Libby trial notes, Day one of “Scooter” Libby trial[/tags]

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