Court Finds Error In Jan. 6 Case, But Obama Judge Rules Against Convict
Court Finds Error In Jan. 6 Case, But Obama Judge Rules Against Convict

Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

A federal judge wrongly stopped a Jan. 6, 2021, defendant from striking a potential juror who admitted he could not view the defendant as presumptively innocent, a U.S. appeals court has found.

Court Finds Error In Jan. 6 Case, But Obama Judge Rules Against Convict
In an image from video, former New York police officer Thomas Webster swings a flag pole at law enforcement officers in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. (Metropolitan Police Department via AP)

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta [an Obama appointee] denied a request from lawyers for Thomas Webster, who was later convicted on multiple counts, to strike a potential juror known as 1156 who had expressed support for President Joe Biden and said that support would put Mr. Webster at a disadvantage.

The potential juror also said he did not see the trial as “a 0-0 game to start” and, when asked by the judge if he could honor the presumption of innocence, said, “I honestly don’t think so.”

“The district court should have struck at least potential juror 1156 for cause,” U.S. Circuit Judge Patricia Millett, writing for a unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, said in the May 28 ruling.

A district court should never allow a juror to sit after he admits he cannot presume the defendant innocent. Full stop,” Judge Millett added later.

Lawyers for Mr. Webster said in a brief to the circuit court that while the potential juror did not end up being part of the jury, the man should have been struck by Judge Mehta. They also highlighted how the judge did not strike another prospective juror, who said that she was “more aligned” with government attorneys than Mr. Webster’s lawyers. They also raised concerns about how the judge then instructed counsel not to question subsequent jurors as to whether their views gave the defendant a disadvantage.

“The court’s further instruction to counsel put a chilling effect on the afternoon session of voir dire,” the lawyers said. “Counsel was limited from using words that jurors may understand better than the legal jargon of presumption of innocence to get at real concerns of bias.”

The appeal said Judge Mehta also should have granted a motion to change venue given results from a survey of Washington residents, that the judge committed an error when providing instructions to the jury, and that his approval of a sentencing enhancement for wearing body armor should be overturned.

After explaining how Judge Mehta wrongly did not strike potential juror 1156, the circuit court panel denied the entire appeal.

“That single error in a lengthy voir dire process does not indict the process itself given the absence of any prejudice tied to the jurors who actually decided Webster’s case,” Judge Millett wrote.

The panel said that Mr. Webster did not provide enough news articles to show the jury pool was prejudiced against him. even after noting that one quoted a person on social media as calling him an “eye gouger.”

“Without more, such routine and objective press coverage of a criminal prosecution does not trench upon the defendant’s right to a fair trial,” Judge Millett said.

A survey of 400 Washington voters found that some respondents were prepared to find people involved in the Jan. 6 breach guilty, without hearing evidence. But nearly half of respondents said they did not know how they would vote if named to a jury, that their vote depended on other factors, or refused to speculate how they would vote in such an instance, the circuit court noted in ruling against the change of venue arguments.

As for the instructions to the jury, Mr. Webster said the judge erred in telling jurors that one can violate federal law prohibiting assaulting, resisting, opposing, impeding, intimidating, or interfering with federal officers only if the person made physical contact with the victim.

The judge may have made a mistake, but “any such mistake would have helped, rather than hurt, Webster by making it harder for the jury to convict him,” the panel said. “Webster, after all, does not dispute that the jury was properly instructed on and found each of the necessary elements for his offense. So removing any surplus elements from the jury instructions would only have made it easier for the jury to convict. The jury still found Webster committed every true element of the crime.”

The sentencing enhancement for wearing body armor was correct, Judge Willett said, because Mr. Webster was wearing body armor when he pushed a Metropolitan Police Department officer on Capitol grounds.

“Webster used body armor while committing his assault. He put it on that morning, in part, for protection. He wore it throughout the day, including as he attacked [the officer]. Given those facts, the district court correctly applied the enhancement,” she said, citing guidelines that say harsher sentences can be imposed if a person is convicted of a crime of violence and “used the body armor with respect to that offense.”

The court also said Mr. Webster’s sentence, 10 years, was appropriate given his actions.

Judges Mehta and Millett were appointed by former President Barack Obama. Judge Millett was joined by Circuit Judges  Gregory Katsas and Neomi Rao, both appointed by former President Donald Trump.

Tyler Durden
Wed, 05/29/2024 – 23:00

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