Fulton 19 recap: 900 local residents to receive jury summons in election interference trial
The Fulton County 2020 presidential election interference trial is scheduled to begin next month, which means attorneys will have to parse through hundreds of potential jurors before opening statements can be made.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee has ordered that 900 residents be called as prospective jurors for the Oct. 23 trial of attorneys and Donald Trump allies Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro. The pair will be the first Trump co-defendants charged in the sweeping racketeering case to stand trial.
McAfee’s order calls for 450 Fulton County residents to appear the opening day of the trial, and another 450 people have been subpoenaed to the downtown Atlanta courthouse on Oct. 27.
Similarly, in October 2021, 1,000 Glynn County residents were summoned for a nationally watched trial in which three white men were found guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys have agreed to use jury questionnaires to screen potential jurors early on in the process.
There are no dates set for Trump and his 16 other co-defendants, who were all charged on Aug. 14 under Georgia’s RICO Act (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act).
The quest to find 12 impartial jurors and an alternate tops this week’s roundup of developments in the case and things to know for the coming week.
Judge OKs defense attorneys contacting grand jury
In a ruling issued Thursday, McAfee authorized Chesebro and Powell’s attorneys to contact the grand jurors criminally indicted Trump and 18 former advisers, attorneys, and other supporters.
Defense attorneys will also be prohibited from asking questions concerning privileged information, such as grand jury deliberations that are confidential under Georgia law.
Chesebro’s attorney Scott Grubman said that the grand jury questions provided an opportunity to determine whether Fulton County prosecutors overstepped their bounds by attempting to influence any juror. At the end of a whirlwind and historic August day, District Attorney Fani Willis held a midnight press conference to discuss the 98-page indictment.
Prior to meeting with jurors, defense lawyers will submit questions for McAfee and prosecutors to review.
Powell’s lawyer has denied in court proceedings that Powell hired forensic computer consultants to assist in obtaining access to sensitive voting equipment and software after the 2020 election. Chesebro has pleaded not guilty to seven conspiracy and racketeering charges related to his alleged role in directing Trump’s campaign to have alternate slates of GOP electors cast ballots for him in Georgia and elsewhere.
Conflict of interest
A complaint filed this week by Willis alleges that six of the defense attorneys in the election interference case are engaged in conflicts of interest.
In Willis’ letter, Grubman is mentioned as well as attorneys representing former Trump Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark, ex-Trump campaign lawyer Ray Smith and pro-Trump attorney Robert Cheeley.
Grubman, who represents Chesebro, stated in a court filing that he is not compromised since he received a waiver from Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who will be one of the high-profile witnesses in the trials. Raffensperger was represented by Grubman during his testimony before a special purpose grand jury last summer.
Trump New York trial date runs up against primary
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Trump is expected to have the New York presidential primary coincide with his trial for his alleged involvement in a multi-year scheme to pay hush money to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
A law signed by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul this week designates April 2 as the state’s presidential primary date.
Willis initially advocated that Trump and his 18 co-defendants be tried together in March in the Fulton County case.
The 2024 Republican presidential frontrunner has not been deterred by multiple legal entanglements in his bid to win a rematch against Biden and secure a second term in the White House.