Libby Trial: Biased Jury Pool Delays Opening Arguments
Judge Reggie Walton has had to readjust his plans for the Scooter Libby trial to deal with a jury pool so overwhelmingly biased against the Bush administration, according to AP’s
Matt Apuzzo. Opening arguments have been pushed back to next Tuesday, even though they were supposed to take place Monday.
Walton set a Monday through Thursday schedule for the trial, freeing him to perform other duties on Fridays. Because voir dire could not be completed yesterday, though–MBA’s Robert Cox reports that only one potential juror got selected yesterday–they are meeting at 3:00 this afternoon to continue the process.
They’re actually running out of jurors in the main pool, because many have been struck for cause. As a result, Apuzzo reports, “Walton needs six more jurors to fill the jury pool but has only a handful available in the original pool. He ordered 10 jurors from an alternate pool to come to court on Monday in case they run out.”
And we haven’t even gone through the peremptory challenges yet. Apuzzo’s colleague Michael Sniffen notes that Libby’s attorneys have twelve and prosecutors have eight. That means they need to get 36 people through the first round to ensure that enough survive the peremptories to leave 12 jurors and 4 alternates.
Obviously, the Libby trial is very high profile and unusual because of the figures involved and the facts being so intertwined with divisive public policy issues. Still, I continue to wonder if the District of Columbia, with a 9-to-1 Democrat to Republican ratio, is a proper venue for a trial of this sort. The District was conceived of as an independent seat of government not beholden to any particular State; it’s existence as a city with a large population is a historical accident. Moving these trials to, say, Alexandria, Virginia or Silver Spring, Maryland would provide a much more diverse jury pool and increase the likelihood of a fair trial.