An attorney for the Justice Department raised concerns during Monday’s hearing in Washington, DC, in the election subversion case against former President Donald Trump that polling by defense attorneys of the District’s residents could negatively impact the jury pool.
Molly Gaston, a prosecutor for special counsel Jack Smith, voiced concerns over Trump’s attorneys ordering a poll of DC residents in the lead-up to the March 2024 trial, arguing that some questions they might ask could taint the pool of potential jurors.
Defense attorneys can poll residents who could make up the jury pool in their case — as well as residents of other jurisdictions in the US — with general questions about the issues of the case and can use those findings to argue for a change of venue.
For instance, in the case against members and associates of the Oath Keepers charged with seditious conspiracy for their actions during the Capitol attack, defense attorneys ordered surveys of DC residents, which included several questions relating to the January 6, 2021 attack.
Defense attorneys for the Oath Keepers used these polls to unsuccessfully argue to move the trial to Virginia or Florida where residents were less impacted by the attack.
John Lauro, who represents the former president, said he would likely be ordering such polling “sooner rather than later” when asked by District Judge Tanya Chutkan.
“I’m certainly not going to share it with the United States government,” Lauro said of any questions he planned on submitting in the survey.
Chutkan told Lauro she was “watching carefully for anything that might affect” or poison the jury pool.
“I am concerned that in terms of gauging (DC residents) you might actually affect their ability to render a fair verdict,” Chutkan said, based on how Trump’s lawyers frame questions in the survey.
Chutkan ordered Lauro to notify the court if he plans on issuing a survey. “Then, I will consider it,” she said.