A jury of former presidents? No, but Trump’s fate will be decided by 12 citizen peers, in a hallowed tradition of American democracy

Un banc de juge et une boîte de jury sont vus dans un palais de justice américain à Cleveland, Ohio.  <a href="https://media.gettyimages.com/id/564093673/photo/east-courtroom-judge-bench-and-jury-box-howard-m-metzenbaum-us-courthouse-cleveland-ohio.jpg?s=1024x1024&w= gi&k=20&c=odacBdzPHvUBQHg-tFIbT2PJdGT5QZ9j63-HX4Yh_I8=" rel="nofollow noopener" cible="_blanc" data-ylk="slk:Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images;elm:context_link;itc:0" classe="lien ">Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images</a>” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/OGjHztUalMtfZrLwWxYrLQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTUyOQ–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/the_conversation_us_articles_815/aa8c94564cab72 ce0200fdd4c503d913″ data-src= “https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/OGjHztUalMtfZrLwWxYrLQ–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTUyOQ–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/the_conversation_us_articles_815/aa8c94564cab72ce020 0fdd4c503d913″/><button class=

It is not the federal government that will hold the future of Donald Trump in its hands. There will be 12 members of the jury in his eventual trial.

Trump appears in federal court on June 13, 2023 for his arraignment and formal presentation of the charges against him in a 37-count indictment issued June 9, 2023.

Trump’s defenders have alleged that the indictment is a politically motivated “witch hunt” by the Biden administration and that any conviction would thereby be discredited.
But like all federal defendants, Trump will be protected by the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial. That right, to have a 12-citizen jury make a judgment on his case, protects Trump from the government overstepping the bounds of citizen power — a dynamic that is often lost in political noise and fury. prompted by his state and federal indictments.

Des gens passent devant le palais de justice fédéral américain Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr., où Trump doit comparaître cette semaine, à Miami, en Floride. <a href="https://media.gettyimages.com/id/1497666902/photo/miami-readies-for-former-president-trumps-arraignment-in-federal-court.jpg?s=1024x1024&w=gi&k=20&c=M3BFPN36uNmGLhToI5msZAFbvFoFl5T3leNOrlvDcfY=" rel="nofollow noopener" cible="_blanc" data-ylk="slk:Joe Raedle/Getty Images;elm:context_link;itc:0" classe="lien ">Joe Raedle/Getty Images</a>” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/XXZ7aotayJa.IekyPTO5VA–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQ0Nw–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/the_conversation_us_articles_815/40a54b8b2371503a 15a47e586e4bfb34″ /><noscript><img alt=Joe Raedle/Getty Images” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/XXZ7aotayJa.IekyPTO5VA–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTQ0Nw–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/the_conversation_us_articles_815/40a54b8b2371503a1 5a47e586e4bfb34″ class= “caas-img”/>
People walk past the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. US federal courthouse, where Trump is due to appear this week, in Miami, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

“In the hands of the governed”

Inspired by Magna Carta, the 13th century bill of rights, jury trials have become a feature of all countries that share the British legal tradition, protecting citizens from unlimited prosecutorial power.

As the keen observer Alexis de Tocqueville noted in 1835, juries “put the real direction of society in the hands of the governed”. [because] he who punishes the criminal… is the true master of society.

Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell observed in 1966 that juries are particularly important in the trial of crimes against the state such as treason and sedition, which therefore may be considered political – and perhaps more so. open to prosecution abuse.

“It was precisely such abuses that caused our English and American ancestors to place such importance on jury trials,” Powell said.

And Thomas Jefferson wrote that he “considers[ed] trial by jury as the only anchor yet devised by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.

In federal court in a criminal prosecution, like Trump’s, a 12-member jury is a matter of law, and that jury must reach a unanimous verdict to convict.

Meticulous examination

The panel of jurors in federal cases is randomly drawn from registered voters and people with driver’s licenses who live in the district.
The process called “voir dire” allows defense attorneys to ask the judge to dismiss certain potential jurors for just cause – due to a demonstrated issue of bias, such as when a juror’s questioning reveals a strong bias for or against an accused. In Trump’s case, jurors’ political affiliations and the depth of their partisan commitments may be relevant and admissible grounds for questioning at the trial court’s discretion.

Even the social media accounts of potential jurors can be investigated to expose their political views. Voir dire also allows defense attorneys to dismiss — in legal parlance, “strike out” — up to 10 jurors without cause.

Federal rules allow up to six alternate jurors in the event one of them is removed by the judge for improper behavior, such as violating the judge’s instructions regarding media access or discussion of the case. with people outside the court.

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High profile, high pressure

If he chooses to go to trial, Donald Trump will face a jury of his peers carefully vetted by his defense attorneys for any potential bias, which could be replaced in the event of misconduct. Like all defendants, Trump will benefit from the protection the jury offers him from abuse by government prosecutors.

Of course, jurors in high-profile cases such as United States v. Trump are exposed to extensive pre-trial media coverage. But this is nothing new.

Early in the republic’s history, Vice President Aaron Burr was tried for treason on the grounds that he had fomented a military effort to separate the Louisiana Territory from the United States. After stepping down as vice president during Jefferson’s last term, Burr traveled the country rallying collaborators in his plot to separate the western territories from the union.

Burr’s trial in Richmond, Virginia, was presided over by U.S. Chief Justice John Marshall and became a cause celebre, with extensive and detailed coverage in Virginia newspapers.

Marshall struggled with the effect of pretrial publicity on the jury, but ultimately concluded that finding a jury without such exposure would be impossible and therefore unnecessary. Burr was eventually acquitted.

Jurors themselves, however, may face greater personal difficulties in carrying out their duties, including significant pressure associated with public scrutiny. Jurors in the high-profile case involving Rodney King, for example, faced threats and disturbing phone calls when their names were made public.

Jurors can also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and other stress-related health problems as a result of high-profile trials or trials involving troubling evidence.

For these reasons, jurors in the Trump trial may be protected by anonymity, if the presiding judge so orders. There was such an order in the E. Jean Carroll v. Trump case in New York.

It is unclear how Judge Aileen Cannon — twice overruled by a higher court for rulings favorable to Trump — will approach the issue of juror anonymity.

Given the turmoil among Trump supporters, the high-stakes nature of the case, and the importance of protecting jurors — who wield such power in the court system — I think such an order is necessary.

This article is republished from The Conversation, an independent nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. If you found it interesting, you can subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

It was written by: Stefanie Lindquist, Arizona State University.

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Stefanie Lindquist does not work for, consult, own stock, or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond her academic appointment.

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