OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
The judge overseeing former President Donald Trump’s racketeering trial in Fulton County, Ga., ordered on Monday that the names of jurors will remain hidden and they will only be identified by numbers.
Jurors in the case “shall be identified by number only in court filings or in open court during the pendency of trial,” Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee noted in a two-page order on Monday, The Messenger reported.
The order was in response to a motion filed by District Attorney Fani Willis, who expressed concern for the jurors in such a high-profile case, the report added.
The Messenger noted further:
In her Sept. 6 motion seeking to keep the jurors’ identities private, Willis cited fears that the defendants in the case’s right to a fair trial would “be endangered if the identities of the jurors become known to the public” during the upcoming trial.
In addition to the names of jurors and prospective jurors, McAfee’s order prohibits parties from disclosing their addresses, telephone numbers or identifying employment information.
Willis had made a formal request for McAfee to obtain a court order that would prevent any defendants involved in the case, members of the media, and all other individuals present from videotaping, photographing, sketching, or otherwise producing or disseminating images of both the chosen jurors and potential jurors, both inside and outside the courtroom, the report added.
McAfee granted only partial approval to Willis’ request, opting not to impose a complete prohibition on the recording of juror images. According to McAfee’s directive, capturing videos or photographs of jurors is permissible only if it complies with the guidelines set forth in Rule 22, which governs the use of electronic devices in courtrooms and the recording of judicial proceedings.
Meanwhile, attorneys for Trump ripped a request by special counsel Jack Smith for a federal judge overseeing his Jan. 6 case to issue a narrow gag order as “unconstitutional.”
“Following these efforts to poison President Trump’s defense, the prosecution now asks the Court to take the extraordinary step of stripping President Trump of his First Amendment freedoms during the most important months of his campaign against President Biden,” Trump’s attorneys wrote in a filing this week, The Messenger noted in a separate report.
The late Monday filing was in response to a request filed by Smith on Sept. 15 seeking a “narrow” gag order that would prohibit the former president from verbally attacking government witnesses in the federal election obstruction case.
The proposed order would bar “statements regarding the identity, testimony, or credibility of prospective witnesses” and “statements about any party, witness, attorney, court personnel, or potential jurors that are disparaging and inflammatory, or intimidating.”
“Smith’s motion seeking the gag order was unsealed after U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan revealed in a ruling that Trump’s ‘inflammatory’ public statements allegedly led to ‘threats and harassment’ against witnesses,” The Messenger reported.
Last week, a legal expert cautioned Willis that she may be walking into a “trap” if she files an appeal to a case seeking to be removed from her jurisdiction and into federal court.
The warning comes after former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ first attempt to have Willis’ charges dismissed in federal court failed, prompting him to file an appeal with the 11th Circuit Court, which is now requesting a brief from Willis on whether federal officials, in general, are eligible for such immunity as Meadows, a former Republican congressman from North Carolina, is seeking.
According to Anthony Michael Kreis, a law professor at Georgia State University, even if Willis wins the review, it will be short-lived and meaningless.
“I think this is a trap that Fani Willis should not walk into,” Kreis wrote on the X platform. “The consensus has generally been (and I think correct) that the current status of the defendant does not matter but what does matter is whether the acts that undergird the legal action are related to official duties.”
“Willis should shut this down despite it maybe giving Meadows a defeat,” continued Kreis. “First, it is a nasty kind of textualism that conservatives like and liberals should reject. Second, it introduces more unnecessary confusion and opens the door to a greater likelihood of Supreme Court review. Third, it makes little theoretical sense. If the idea of removal is to provide a neutral venue to persons employed by the gov’t or empowered by federal law from vindictive actions in state court, then the D’s current status is irrelevant. It’s about protecting federal integrity.”