Home U.S. News A Thorny Question in Atlanta: Could You Serve on Trump’s Jury?

A Thorny Question in Atlanta: Could You Serve on Trump’s Jury?

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A Thorny Question in Atlanta: Could You Serve on Trump’s Jury?

If he hadn’t just been called up for jury duty last week and released, Seth Beisher said he might have been an ideal person to decide whether former President Donald J. Trump and his allies criminally conspired to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia.

Mr. Beisher lives in Fulton County, where Mr. Trump and 18 others were indicted on Monday under the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, or RICO. He does not advertise his political beliefs — “I don’t have any stickers on my car,” he said. “I don’t give to either of the parties.” Most important, he said, he has not made up his mind about Mr. Trump’s guilt or innocence.

“I think I would actually be a great jury candidate,” Mr. Beisher, 46, said on Tuesday as he sat with his friend at a dog park in Johns Creek, a suburb north of Atlanta. “I would do my due diligence, and I would make the fair vote.”

Finding others like him could be difficult.

Now that the charges have landed, many in and around Atlanta are contemplating what lies ahead, including the slim, but not implausible, possibility that they could be the ones deciding the outcome of the case as jurors.

In interviews, many acknowledged having strong, perhaps even immovable, views about Mr. Trump and his politics. Some pointed out that it was their votes as Georgians that Mr. Trump and his associates were accused of trying to subvert. They also described being inundated by months of news coverage about the case, as well as the three other investigations in which Mr. Trump has been indicted.

“It would be hard to believe that somebody hasn’t heard about it or doesn’t have some impression of the former president,” said Kay Levine, a professor of law at Emory University in Atlanta. “The question is: Can you put aside all that stuff and decide only on the evidence that’s presented?”

Some said they could look past their opinions and hear the evidence fairly.

Evan Winograd, a consultant, said jurors should have enough evidence to consider to overlook their preconceived opinions and make an honest, informed decision.

“I would be surprised if these indictments were based on just political fodder and not actual evidence,” he said.

The case grew out of a transformative moment in Georgia, as Mr. Trump was the first Republican candidate to lose the state in a presidential election since 1992, reflecting the ground that Democrats have gained in once reliably Republican areas.

But the jury will be drawn from Fulton County, where Democrats have long been dominant. President Biden won the 2020 election with nearly 73 percent of the vote in the county; four years earlier, Hillary Clinton beat Mr. Trump by more than 40 percentage points.

But legal experts said the county, which includes most of Atlanta and a constellation of suburbs, was vast and had a diversity — politically, racially and economically — that could be reflected in the jury.

“It’s not a homogeneous population by any means,” said Emily Gilbert, a criminal defense lawyer in Atlanta. “It’s going to be a diverse panel any way you slice it.”

Legal experts said that Mr. Trump might try to move the case to federal court, which would broaden the potential jury pool to include more of the former president’s supporters. Mr. Trump also faces charges in New York and Washington, D.C., which lean heavily Democratic, and in Florida, where he has a stronger base of support.

Bryan Baer, 48, was adamant in his belief that Mr. Trump should have never been president; he’s a Libertarian who was turned off by what he saw as Mr. Trump’s bombast and unpredictability.

But Mr. Baer, a lawyer, said the former president had a point about possible voting irregularities in 2020. “We made a lot of changes to the process that I think proved more favorable to Joe Biden,” he said as he ate a burrito at a restaurant in the affluent Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta, where he lives. “That doesn’t mean it was a crooked election necessarily.”

Some said that they found the charges almost reassuring. “It shows the rule of law is working here at least,” said Orlan Rose, a cook living in Atlanta.

He admitted that he would bring a bias against Mr. Trump as a juror. “It’s good that he was indicted,” Mr. Rose added as he walked on the Eastside Trail of the Atlanta BeltLine. “It was well overdue — I felt like the evidence against him was in plain sight for a while.”

David Vandegrift, a software engineer, said he would “bring a real sense of justice” to a jury — and also strong ideas about the case.

“We have the most criminal president in history who is finally being held to account for the criminality that he perpetrated,” he said, adding, “He’s in an appropriate amount of trouble for the things that he did.”

Barbara Clark, 73, did not think she could serve. “I couldn’t be impartial,” she said, “and I don’t think most people can be either.”

She voted for Mr. Trump in 2020, but her support was not unconditional. She was particularly disappointed by his refusal to accept his loss. But she was just as troubled by the indictment and worried about the case devolving into a circus, creating tension and turmoil in Atlanta.

“It’s just a big waste of time,” said Ms. Clark, a rideshare driver who was born in Atlanta and never left. “This is just going to divide this city more.”

Andrea Grieco was a supporter of the former president until his handling of the fallout of the 2020 election, she said.

“I turned on him after the election,” Ms. Grieco, 53, said while walking her dog in Johns Creek. “I was severely dismayed with how he and his lawyers handled his losing the election.”

But she was also discouraged by the prospect of a criminal case dragging on and stirring up more turbulence.

The case against Mr. Trump, as she saw it, could only add to the animosity. “The Democrats don’t realize that by doing this, they’re fueling the far right,” she said, and the “forever Trumpers don’t realize that they’re fueling the Democrats.”

Others said that regardless of what they thought of the case, they wanted no part of it, fearful of being drawn into the center of a spectacle.

“No matter how it goes — whether the verdict is in his favor or not in his favor — you’re going to be scrutinized either way,” said Praise Perry, a graphic designer in Atlanta. “That’s a lot of responsibility.”

A responsibility, she said, that she’d rather go to someone else.

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