Libby Trial: Fitzgerald Wants Bush Critics on Jury

Patrick Fitzgerald is working to get Bush critics on the Scooter Libby jury AP’s Matt Apuzzo reports.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald pushed back Thursday against defense attorneys who have been weeding Bush administration critics out of the jury pool in the perjury trial of former White House aide “Scooter” Libby. “The jury will not be asked to render a verdict on the war or what they think of the war,” Fitzgerald said Thursday at the onset of the third day of jury selection.

Jury selection has taken longer than expected, in part because attorneys for I. Lewis Libby have grilled potential jurors on their political views. Though several Bush administration critics made it into the potential jury pool, attorneys have successfully disqualified the harshest Bush opponents who said they could not be impartial.

[…]

Fitzgerald and defense attorneys spent more than 15 minutes Thursday morning arguing privately with U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton over whether to dismiss one potential juror, a management consultant. She said her feelings about the administration could spill over into the trial. “My personal feeling is the Iraq war was a tremendous, terrible mistake. It’s quite a horrendous thing,” she said. “Whether any one person or the administration is responsible for that is quite a complex question.” The woman was ultimately dismissed but Fitzgerald’s fight to keep her was his strongest effort yet during the politically charged hearings.

The makeup of the jury pool is a critical pretrial issue. Libby plans to tell jurors that despite what prosecutors say, he didn’t lie to investigators. He says he was bogged down by national security issues and simply didn’t remember the conversations about Plame correctly. If jurors come to the trial already skeptical about the credibility of Libby or Cheney, attorneys say they won’t get a fair trial.

It seems axiomatic to me that people who have strong negative feelings about President Bush or the Iraq War are going to be more inclined to weigh evidence against Libby harshly. If a black man were on trial and a prospective juror said he was a Ku Klux Klansman but he could be fair, we would almost certainly exclude him from the jury pool. Sure, people can put aside their biases and be fair. But they usually don’t.

That’s not to say the jury pool should only include rabid Bush supporters or even just Republicans; that would be unfair as well. Libby’s team has a duty, though, to do their best to ensure that their client can get a fair shake.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    Odd behavior, if ‘justice’ is what this is about.
    (Chuckle)

  2. Triumph says:

    If a black man were on trial and a prospective juror said he was a Ku Klux Klansman but he could be fair, we would almost certainly exclude him from the jury pool. Sure, people can put aside their biases and be fair. But they usually don’t.

    So, by your logic, potential jurors who say they “support the administration” should also be excluded because they won’t be able to put aside their biases and be fair.

    With such a high-profile case, finding jurors who are not disposed either way to trust or not trust the witnesses will be impossible.

  3. John Burgess says:

    Triumph: I’d certainly exclude strong Administration supporters for the same reason I’d exclude strong critics: lack of impartiality.

    And yes, that makes seating a jury really hard. In fact, it could lead to canceling a trial completely. I’m not sure where the trial might be moved to find a venue in which the jury pool was ignorant of such a high-profile case. That’s one of the defects in the interface between media and the justice system.

  4. Triumph says:

    I’m not sure where the trial might be moved to find a venue in which the jury pool was ignorant of such a high-profile case. That’s one of the defects in the interface between media and the justice system.

    Since Bush has such high praise for the justice system that’s been put in place in Iraq, why not just hand Scooter over to “Hangman” al-Maliki?

  5. jeff b says:

    Seating a Bush-neutral jury in Washington DC is not going to be possible. 91% of residents voted against Bush in ’04 and that was before he really began to plummet in the public opinion polls.

  6. ken says:

    If Republicans do not want to face a jury in Washington DC they should not commit their felonies in Washington DC.

  7. Christopher says:

    Triumph: Bush supporters are smart, fair and unbiased, seriously-most of them are.

    Conversely, we all know that liberals are a bunch of ignorant idiots who treat their party like it is their sports team and would not pass up a chance such as this trial to score one for their side.

    On another note—liberals keep saying that Fitzgerald is a conservative. Yea, right.