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Appeals Court Rules D.C. Residents Can Fairly Judge Jan. 6, 2021 Cases

Washington, D.C.’s left-leaning politics has no bearing on residents’ ability to be fair jurors in trials of those who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday. Two former President Trump appointees from the U.S. Court of Appeals joined an appointee of former President Obama in a unanimous ruling that rejected arguments from lawyers for ex-New York City Police Officer Thomas Webster that Washington jurors were too biased to sit on cases related to the riot. “The political inclinations of a populace writ large say nothing about an individual’s ability to serve impartially in adjudicating the criminal conduct of an individual,” wrote Obama appointee Patricia Millett, joined by Trump appointees Greg Katsas and Neomi Rao, Politico reports.


The ruling is a rejection of Trump and his allies’ longstanding claims that fair trials are impossible in cities with Democratic-leaning populations. Tuesday’s decision is also an endorsement of courtroom processes intended to screen potential jurors for bias before trials begin. It could give a boost to the stalled effort to try Trump on charges that he attempted to subvert the 2020 election and helped foment the riot that Webster joined. Many of the more than 150 Jan. 6 defendants who have gone to trial have argued for a change of venue on the basis of political bias of the jury pool or lingering anger over the events of Jan. 6. Federal judges in Washington have uniformly rejected those challenges, responding that the process for questioning potential jurors was sufficient to weed out potential bias. Trump has repeatedly echoed the claims that a Washington jury would be hopelessly unfair to him because the city voted 92 percent for Biden and only 5 percent for him. That statistic omits the 30 percent of D.C. residents who did not vote but would be included in the jury pool.

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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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