Washington – Twelve Washington, DC residents have been selected from a pool of dozens to serve as jurors in the largest trial to date in the Justice Department’s sprawling investigation into the.
The jury was selected by the prosecutors and defense attorneys of the five defendants on trial; Members of thegroup accused of forcibly resisting the peaceful transfer of power from former President Donald Trump to President Joe Biden during the joint session of Congress held to certify the results of the 2020 election.
The high-profile trial, which resumes Monday with opening arguments, will be a test for the Justice Department afterand his associates with seditious conspiracy, the most serious charge yet imposed as a result of the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill.
Rhodes and Florida residents Kelly Meggs and Kenneth Harrelson; Jessica Watkins of Ohio; and Thomas Caldwell, of Virginia, are accused of planning the attack with other Oathkeepers in the months leading up to January 6, including allegedly storing weapons in a Washington, DC-area hotel room, and coordinating of movement in and around the Capitol throughout the year. the mutiny The five pleaded not guilty to the indictment of various charges against them.
Also under pressure as the jury selection trial got underway was the federal court in Washington, DC, tasked with finding the new group of twelve jurors plus four alternates to act as fair arbiters in the politically charged trial that It is expected to last more than a month.
Over the course of three days, Judge Amit Mehta and attorneys conducted background checks on residents randomly selected as potential jurors in the case.
Asked about their views on the January 6 attack, most said it was disturbing or disappointing, and whether they were familiar with the Oath Keepers group, which is described as a loosely organized group of right-wing anti-government extremists. Lawyers also pressed people about their views on Trump and his supporters.
Jurors were not required to hold neutral views of the attack or have no prior knowledge of the militia group to be considered qualified. Instead, the court pressed them on whether they could dispel any preconceived notions to maintain a neutral stance toward the evidence presented at trial, a job some said they found too difficult given their views on Trump, January 6, or the defendants themselves. .
And in some cases, defense attorneys questioned residents about their social media habits and presented the court with snippets of the individual’s social media posts found online during questioning.
The potential jurors who faced cross-examination held numerous positions in and around government service, from a USAID employee to a lawyer working in the Department of Labor. Many had connections to the Capitol itself, either through friends or neighbors, and even in one case, a university internship.
And while the consensus among the group was that the events of January 6 were “very disturbing,” some said they had read little or no news that day and had no interest in subsequent coverage. The news, said a juror who was later excused, was “boring and for old people.”
Ultimately, the group surveyed was narrowed down to the final 12 jurors, made up of people who attended women’s rights rallies in the nation’s capital, work for the TSA or the State Department, and have family members serving in law enforcement.
Some are parents of young children, while another has a parent who was a prosecutor in another state.
Despite the variety, each of those selected had told Mehta that they felt they could be fair in evaluating the evidence at the trial, which begins in earnest on Monday.
Prosecutors said their opening arguments will take more than an hour, followed by a chance for each defendant’s team to provide their response.
The government has argued and will have to prove to this jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the group’s planning, communication, and coordination were vital components of the chaos that occurred that day and were designed to impede both the legitimate operation of Congress and the peaceful transfer of power. . Defense attorneys have indicated they will argue that the Oath Keepers were present on Jan. 6 not to stir up a riot or resist a Biden presidency, but to provide protection and first aid to protesters and those who spoke at rallies in support of Trump. Other lawyers have asked the court to allow them to invoke the Insurrection Act as a defence, arguing that their clients expected the former to call on militia groups to take action, a call that never came.
Before dismissing the newly selected jury for the day on Thursday, Mehta said he was sure they did not expect at the beginning of the week that they would be in such a trial. After this jury returns its verdict, which it is, Mehta and the court restart the entire process while four other alleged Oathkeepers charged with seditious conspiracy are set to stand trial.