Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Libby Trial, Day 1: jury selection

Firedoglake is the goto site for Libby Trial stuff and, as I said this weekend, FDL has been accredited with press passes for the courtroom. Here are some interesting excerpts from Pachcutec's notes from the jury selection today:

"I am completely without objectivity. There is nothing you can say that would make me feel positively about President Bush."

Thus spake the eighth of nine prospective jurors reviewed by Judge Reggie Walton, Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and defense attorneys Ted Wells and William Jeffress today. She had indicated on her juror form she had some strong opinions about the Bush administration, and, queried in her turn by Judge Walton, she cast her eye over all assembled in the courtroom and declared herself.

"So, you are saying you do not believe you could render a fair and impartial verdict in this case, based on the evidence and according to my instructions to the jury prior to deliberations?," Judge Walton followed.

"That's right," she responded, whereupon she was immediately excused from jury duty.

The juror who preceded her took a bit longer, with much questioning and circling around questioning by Mr. Wells, before confessing that, though he would like to think otherwise, it is likely the case that his opinion of Vice President Cheney's credibility is so low that, were sworn testimony offered by Cheney to be contradicted by another witness, the prospective juror would be hard pressed not the feel predisposed to find the vice president unbelievable. This juror, of the nine reviewed today, actually knew the most about the backstory of the case, even to the point of naming Richard Armitage as the first to leak Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA agent.

To assess the tenor of the news coverage this juror had previously read, Ted Wells asked this juror if he reads blogs. "Yes," he replied. "Which ones?" asked Wells. "Andrew Sullivan. Time. Wonkette. Powerline, occasionally, and the Huffington Post, occasionally (hello to you, dude!). . . Some of them are pretty good. I stay away from the crazies.” The media room erupted in laughter, as I took a seated bow.

He was excused from the jury for his admission that he could not assure the court his assessment of the vice president would not color his thinking about testimony and evidence.

Therein lies the challenge for Team Libby: of the nine jurors reviewed in depth today, three were excused. Two I've described to you, and one was excused due to the demands on her time of her work commitments as a free lance contractor paying the rent month to month. What's telling is this: no jurors were excused for cause based on any predispositions that might prejudice them against the prosecution. Just the defense.


The Libby team's jury selection strategy seems rather clear: if they can find at least one, and preferably two, people who are among that 12% of the population in support of the administration's "surge" strategy to escalate the war in the Middle East, that would be golden. Two such people, or at least one, could possibly hold out against what otherwise might be a consensus to convict, possibly even nullifying the jury, if it came to that. Generally, the demographics that hurt the administration hurt the defense team: women (especially single women), minorities, working people or union members, liberal professionals, etc. The problem for team Libby is, their best jurors live in Salt Lake City, not Washington, DC.
Some tough personal news from Jane:

As someone who has devoted years to building this blog around coverage of the CIA leak investigation, it's going to be really rough to sit on the sidelines for the first two weeks while Marcy, Christy, Pach and others cover the trial in person. I've been working for months now to obtain a press pass and set up the "Plame House" in Washington DC as a central place for bloggers to stay and share information amongst ourselves as we cover the trial. When I received (with the help of Arianna Huffington and Rachel Sklar of the Huffington Post) the only press pass awarded to a blogger to be in the actual courtroom, I was blown away. And as you might well imagine, it would have to be something pretty serious to keep me away for even a moment.

In mid-December I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the third time. It's a bit more serious this time and treatment is going to have to be more extensive.


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