There is an interesting new controversy developing around the trial of Roger Stone. This one does not focus on the sentencing of Stone but his trial. New information has emerged that the foreperson of the trial has a long history of highly critical postings against President Donald Trump and his administration. Former Memphis City Schools Board President Tomeka Hart recently went public with her support of the prosecutors who resigned from the case. However, there are now questions of why Hart was allowed on the jury, let alone made the foreperson given her highly critical view of Trump and his associates before being called for jury service. Not only has Hart called Trump supporters like Stone racists but she celebrated a protest that projected profanities on the Trump hotel with the words “Gotta Love It.”
Hart publicly identified herself as the foreperson is offering a full-throated defense of the prosecution against President Trump’s alleged intervention in the case: “I want to stand up for Aaron Zelinsky, Adam Jed, Michael Marando, and Jonathan Kravis — the prosecutors on the Roger Stone trial,” Hart wrote in the post. “It pains me to see the DOJ now interfere with the hard work of the prosecutors. They acted with the utmost intelligence, integrity, and respect for our system of justice.” As I discussed in yesterday’s column, it is not clear that there was improper “interference” from Main Justice under the U.S. Attorneys Manual.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson refused to bar witnesses due to their past political associations or viewpoints. This included a former Obama-era press secretary for the Office of Management and Budget who admitted to having negative views of Trump and whose husband worked at the Justice Department division. However, she maintained the stand that she did not have strong views about Stone. That was enough for Jackson and one can understand the reluctance to striking jurors in a city filled with politically active people.
However, the social media postings of Hart raise troubling questions as to whether these views were known or disclosed. What is clear is that no defendant associated with Trump would want such a juror sitting in judgment. This included a posting about the Stone case where she retweeted mocking dismissals of objections to Stone’s treatment in a dawn raid. I was one of those raising such concerns. There is of course nothing wrong with holding the opposing view of that issue and Hart did nothing wrong in sitting on the jury absent some allegations of hiding or misrepresenting information.
Hart is a democratic activist who ran for Congress and referred to the President with a hashtag as “klanpresident.” More worrisome is her references directly to Stone, including a retweeted post, in January 2019, Bakari Sellers again raising racist associations and stating “Roger Stone has y’all talking about reviewing use of force guidelines.” She also called Trump supporters like Stone racists and Putin cronies. When profanities were projected on the Trump hotel, she exclaimed on Jan. 13, 2018, “Gotta love it.”
She also, on March 24, 2019, shared a Facebook post calling attention to “the numerous indictments, guilty pleas, and convictions of people in 45’s inner-circle.”
These and other postings have thus far been noted by Fox and more conservative sites but not many in the mainstream media. The question is why. What would be the response if an Obama associate was convicted on a jury with a foreperson who was a Republican activist with a long social media record criticizing not just Obama but supporting the prosecution of that associate?
This goes beyond political opposition and raises serious questions of bias, particularly the references to this defendant and his prosecution. It is not clear if the court was aware of these comments, but it would seem to raise disqualifying bias. What concerns me is that a high-profile case of this kind comes with the added burden for the court to assure both sides of a divided nation that the trial was conducted without even the hint of bias or animus from either the court or the jury. The selection of this juror clearly does not meet that burden.
Trump has already latched on to the controversy in tweets raising bias — a possible added rationale to be cited in his possible pardoning of Stone. He has also attacked the judge which, again, is highly inappropriate and entirely unwarranted.
I obviously come to these questions from the perspective of a criminal defense attorney. I would have been shocked if a court dismissed such commentary and required a defendant to be judged by someone who commented on his case before trial. The fact that Hart is also a lawyer would only magnify my concerns over her influence on the jury.
The new information raises a legitimate question for appeal, but the question is whether the district court will address the information. This case is still squarely before Jackson and would warrant a decision from the court. At a minimum, there should be a record for the appellate court in dealing with an obvious defense argument (assuming that the objection was preserved by the defense).
In Irvin v. Dowd, 366 U.S. 717, 722 (1961), the Supreme Court stated “the minimal standards of due process” demand a fair hearing before competent and impartial jurors. See also United States v. Tegzes, 715 F.2d 505, 507 (11th Cir. 1983) (citing Murphy v. Florida, 421 U.S. 794, 799 (1975)(“constitutional standard of fairness requires that the criminally accused have ‘a panel of impartial, indifferent jurors.’”). In cases like Pena-Rodriguez, the Supreme Court has held that statements in the jury room showing racial bias justifies reversal. The line is more blurry on political bias, but few cases involve a juror who previously discussed the defendant and his case.
What is missing is a transcript or record from the voir dire and what was asked and any objections made in the court. Under Rule 24, the government has six peremptory challenges and the defendant or defendants jointly have ten peremptory challenges for crimes punishable by imprisonment of more than one year.
189 thoughts on ““Gotta love it!”: Major Controversy Erupts Over Undisclosed Alleged Bias Of Foreperson In Stone Trial [Updated]”
Hopefully you will correct and update this post when you read the void dire – see that the fact that this witness was a Democrat and former candidate for Congress was fully disclosed and the defense made no objection to try to remove her.
Turley err’s when he states that Hart could choose to sit on this jury.
Whether Hart committed a crime on not depends on her answers to jury questions. But she clearly prejudged the case and knew that herself.
With respect to what was disclosed to who during Voir Dire – that is relevant as to HOW this failure occured – not whether.
Frankly there are numerous reasons this Trial was unjust – starting with it never should have occurred. There is no underlying crime, and the process claims are either false or inconsequential.
The purported threat does not even come close to surviving a first amendment challenge.
It is time the United States develop a protection for political opinions which we currently do not have..thus it is lawful to discriminate against political opinion whether it be for any reason. This must be changed.
Going back to the American Revolution of 1775, Americans are entitled to their opinions, but benefit by exercising some discretion in sharing them. The pure ad-hominem hatreds and vitriol that passes for “political opinion” today, and stretching back in history — there ought to be some measure of social opprobrium for such ill tempered rants. Could you lose your job over expressing an “opinion”?…yes….employment law offers no such protections.
Similarly, you could be kicked out of a social circle or club for same. You cold be divorced or shunned by your family members.
Isn’t it enough that the government and police are constrained from retaliating against you for expressing an opinion?
How could there ever be a way to constrain persons from such retaliations?
Be grateful for the paucity of social norms of civility that remain, and do your part, by example, to uphold them. Isn’t that good enough?
A highly prejudiced jury foreperson is, for the duration of her service, part of the government. As such, she is expected to refrain from statements during the course of her jury duty prejudicial to the defendant in a case she is called on to try.
Tomeka Hart should be investigated for her conduct during Roger Stone’s trial to determine whether her conduct was jury tampering or another criminal offense.
I hope Mr. Stone and his attorney(s) appeal this verdict. Judge Jackson doesn’t appear to have taken even ordinary care to isolate Mr. Stone from the consequences of Ms. Hart’s prejudicial views as expressed in her comments during the trial.
A change of venue is granted if excess publicity taints the jury pool. So then what when the jurors arrive thoroughly tainted by their own publicly voiced hatreds and associations?
I cannot imagine this conviction surviving an appeal.
And if this juror lied to remain on the case she should be prosecuted and disbarred.
OT: Global warming in a few charts. Fascinating.
The fact that Hart is also a lawyer….
But of course!!! She fits the profile better than Avenatti, Schiff, Nadler and all the other slime bags
How ’bout those right-wing “slime bags”???
Nobody said anything about left wing socialist.
This woman is an embarrassment . With all of that education she is still only two steps above Maxine Waters, and that is nothing to brag about. Her education, position on that jury, and ethnicity combinet show that the term Racist and unethical conduct are not can apply to Black Americans too. Perhaps she can be disciplined by the bar association for HR conduct.
“Gotta love it!”: Major Controversy Erupts Over Undisclosed Alleged Bias Of Foreperson In Stone Trial
Tomeka Hart – What the —- is that? What the —- country are we in, Botswana?
What in the —- did you expect would be the product of wholly unconstitutional affirmative action, quotas, welfare, food stamps, rent control, social
services, forced busing, minimum wage, utility subsidies, WIC, TANF, HAMP, HARP, Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Labor, Energy, Obamacare,
Social Security, Social Security Disability, Social Security Supplemental Income, Medicare, Medicaid, “Fair Housing” laws, “Non-Discrimination” laws,
Obongo-Congo promised to steal your country; to “fundamentally transform the United States;” the one truth that empty-suit, anti-colonialist, anti-
American communisty-organizer ever uttered.
Next, liberals will make miscegenation mandatory and compulsory.
It just wasn’t enough to give them our country and our treasure.
We gave you “…a republic, if you can keep it.”
– Ben Franklin, 1787
We gave you “…a republic, if you can take it back.”
– Ben Franklin, 2020
George,. After putting aside your open and undisguised racist discription of president Obama,. I find myself agreeing with the substance of your comment.
George is one of the many crazies on here on the Right including Allan, Kurtz, Oky1, mostly men it seems, balanced by many other crazies on the Left, it leaves for encouraging reminder: the rest of us look just dandy
People have seen that yellow line in the middle of the road.
They know you are like that bloody spot of a dead skunk that got caught running on a yellow streak. 😉
Who says “dandy” anymore?
Only the oldsters on this blog…
Old folks use them too.
Is being constitutional “crazy?” The Founders wrote the Constitution. Was it constitutional for the Founders to require citizens to be “…free white person(s)…” or for the Founder to require voters to be: Male, European, 21 and worth 50 lbs. Sterling or 50 acres as was generally the case in 1789?
So you would deny me alone or all Americans the freedom of thought, speech, belief, religion, socialization, assembly and every other conceivable natural and God-given right, freedom, privilege and immunity prescribed by the Constitution, with emphasis on the 9th Amendment?
I cannot consider race? I suppose I cannot discriminate also? Shall you dictate whom I marry – I actually think you communists already did that considering the burgeoning MSM indoctrination urging miscegenation.
Was the O.J. Simpson jury racist? Was Colin Kaepernick treasonous/racist? What exactly did Obongo, being not American but African-American, want to “fundamentally transform,” if not Americans? Why are communists in America diluting Americans out of existence – California is now a majority of minorities – do they do that in China, Lichtenstein, Kuwait, Japan, Austria, North Korea, Cuba, etc.?
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