Former President Donald Trump is facing criminal charges in four separate cases, some of which threaten significant consequences. Trump’s fate will, in certain respects, ride in the hands of the jurors selected. So, naturally, Trump was wary of his prospective jury pool – especially for his federal case in Washington D.C., where just one out of twenty voters cast a ballot for Trump.
“No way I can get a fair trial, or even to a fair trial,” Trump said of Washington D.C., a city he called a “filthy and crime-ridden embarrassment to our nation.”
Trump has a point. About the first part, that is. Getting a fair trial in D.C. (well, D.C. is technically crime-ridden, too). “A miniscule 5 percent of voters in D.C. backed him in the 2020 race against Joe Biden,” POLITICO reported. “Roughly the same as his dismal 2016 showing.”
But could it be done? Could Trump find a jury in D.C. capable of giving him a fair trial? POLITICO called up a jury consultant to see if they thought the polarizing ex-president could receive a fair trial behind enemy lines. Here’s what the consultant had to say.
Jury Consultant Weighs In
“Jury consultants are obscure and frequently misunderstood figures in the legal system,” POLITICO reported. “But they’ve risen in prominence in recent decades; unpopular or polarizing – and well-resourced – litigants frequently turn to them before facing a potentially hostile jury.”
The jury consultant had several ideas for Trump and his team, suggesting that there is indeed hope for Trump regardless of D.C.’s voter composition.
“Jurors always surprise us, and they always fixate on something that you would never have expected them to fixate on,” said Leslie Ellis, a veteran jury consultant based in D.C.
Similarly, Aref Jabbour, also an experienced jury consultant, said that finding jurors sympathetic to Trump in D.C. would be “like mining for gold,” even though the place was a bastion of Democratic voters.
But the particularly good news: Trump’s team doesn’t have to convince all of the jurors to side with Trump or even most of the jurors; flipping just one juror could be sufficient to get Trump off the hook.
Will Trump Be Able to Use a Jury Consultant?
Preventing a defendant from conducting jury studies is highly, highly abnormal – “jury studies are almost always used by litigants in major criminal and civil cases without any involvement or supervision by the court whatsoever.”
Yet, in Trump’s case, “prosecutors have argued that his use of jury studies could ‘prejudice the jury pool,’ perhaps intentionally.” POLITICO reported. “[Prosecutors] have warned that Trump’s defense team might even contrive a biased study and then publicize some or all of the results to influence prospective jurors – the sort of tactic that, as a practical matter, would be available only to a person with the sort of media reach and general unscrupulousness of someone like Trump.”
Trump’s lawyers have, of course, argued against the gag order, stating that “the purpose of polling and jury studies is not to influence respondents, but to get a true read on the community’s opinions or feelings on certain issues.”
Trump and his team are already making a case that he is on the wrong side of a two-tiered justice system. Were Trump to be prevented from conducting jury studies expect him to plausibly cry ‘foul.’
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.