Jack Smith Requests Written Jury Questionnaire in Trump Classified Documents Case

Jack Smith Requests Written Jury Questionnaire in Trump Classified Documents Case


Prosecutors are seeking a Feb. 2 deadline to jointly submit a written jury questionnaire ahead of in-person jury selection.

On Tuesday, federal prosecutors asked the Florida judge presiding over former President Donald Trump’s classified documents trial to approve a written jury questionnaire ahead of an in-person selection process, given the high profile of the case.

In a Dec. 19 motion to U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, special prosecutor Jack Smith’s office said, “Because the pre-trial publicity surrounding this case is substantial, the Government recommends a thorough jury selection process, including a written questionnaire completed by potential jurors before in-person voir dire.”

The jury questionnaire would form part of a comprehensive jury selection process that prosecutors seek to expedite the selection process by identifying uncontested strikes for cause and hardship before in-person voir dire, a process in which potential jurors are screened to determine their impartiality.

Citing the high profile of the case, Mr. Smith’s office also argues that using a jury questionnaire in addition to in-person voir dire will safeguard President Trump’s Sixth Amendment right to a fair and efficient jury selection process. The motion suggests that a questionnaire will streamline the process by allowing the parties and the court to conduct informed individual questioning of a narrowed pool of potential jurors.

“A written questionnaire, used as part of a comprehensive voir dire process, is a potent tool to sift out potential jury bias in cases where there has been substantial media attention,” Mr. Smith’s office said in the filing.

The motion, noting the 10-week lead time needed in other cases, seeks a Feb. 2, 2024, deadline for the parties to submit a proposed jury questionnaire to Judge Cannon and highlight any disagreement points.

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Prosecutors push for this date, noting that there might not be enough time to undertake this process before the May 20, 2024 trial date should they wait to start the process after the March 1, 2024, scheduling conference.

However, Judge Cannon cast doubt on the May 20 trial date in a prior order in November, which pushed back key pre-trial deadlines. The order also noted that the trial’s start date would be “considered at a scheduling conference” in March.

In their filing on Tuesday, prosecutors said that accomplishing the juror questionnaire “requires enough time beforehand to allow for meaningful conferral among the parties and for the Court to consider and resolve disputes.” Furthermore, “Time may also be required to print questionnaires and conduct other processing,” the motion added.

As an alternative to mailing the questionnaires, Mr. Smith’s office suggested that potential jurors could be summoned to the courthouse, acknowledging that this process would also require a lead time for the court to prepare ahead of the May trial date.

Trump Legal Team Opposes Motion

President Trump’s legal team opposes the motion on the grounds that “the relief sought is premature and would not be an economical use of the parties’ time before the court has ruled on discovery demands or other motions,” according to the filing by Mr. Smith’s office.

In June, the former president was indicted on federal charges in Florida of improperly storing sensitive documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate, according to a sweeping felony indictment.

President Trump entered a plea of not guilty in the case. He has consistently asserted that the case is part of an effort by Democrats to undermine his political prospects, given the significant lead he maintains in presidential primary polls.

The former president also faces charges by Mr. Smith’s office in Washington related to his post-election efforts to challenge the process and results of the 2020 election. He faces similar state charges in Georgia.

He also faces civil fraud charges in New York related to business records toward the end of the 2016 campaign. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges brought by a Democratic attorney general whom he has accused of bias against him.

President Trump has similarly accused the judge presiding over the New York civil case, Arthur Engoron, and his chief law clerk of political bias against him. Judge Engoron has already ruled that the defendants are liable, and the trial is meant to determine penalties and resolve other legal issues in the lawsuit.

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