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‘Remarkably violent’: Jan. 6 perceptions spur jury concerns

A prospective juror in the government’s upcoming seditious conspiracy trial recalled images of violence as the media covered the insurrection after the last presidential election.

WASHINGTON (CN) — A woman called for jury duty in the next seditious conspiracy trial stemming from the Capitol riot spoke about her ugly memories associated with Jan. 6, 2021, but maintained she could still serve impartially.

“I think that day was remarkably violent,” she said in reference to last year's uprising. The woman is being considered to serve on a jury in which four members of the far-right Oath Keepers group are accused of trying to overthrow the U.S. government to keep Donald Trump in power after Joe Biden defeated him in the 2020 presidential election.

The trial comes only about a week after the first seditious conspiracy prosecution related to the insurrection ended with two defendants, one of whom was the Oath Keepers' founder Stewart Rhodes, convicted of that rare and notorious charge.

This time, the government has levied the count against Edward VallejoRoberto MinutaDavid Moerschel and Joseph Hackett.

The female juror who described Jan. 6 as a violent day said she works for the D.C. government. When asked if her memories about Jan. 6 coverage might have created a bias, the woman insisted it would not.

“If the federal government is bringing a case,” she told the court, “[it] must meet a burden of proof.”

Defense lawyers also questioned the woman about a public demonstration against federal immigration policies that she attended in 2019. The juror said she was protesting as the daughter of immigrants from the Philippines but noted that she has family members who support Trump. Asked whether her rally attendance would impact her ability to remain impartial as a juror, she said it would not.

The juror noted as well that her wife is a public defender for the state of Colorado but that this would not impact her ability to acquit any of the defendants, if need be.

After about 10 minutes of questioning, defense attorneys appeared satisfied with the woman’s answers and did not ask the judge to strike.

As with the Rhodes prosecution, the upcoming trial is proceeding in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta. The Obama appointee repeated the note he made Wednesday, at the start of jury selection, that prospective jurors will likely be familiar with the Jan. 6, 2021, siege on the U.S. Capitol, which led to several deaths and briefly delayed the certification of the presidential election results. What matters, the judge insisted, is whether the jurors can set aside their views to remain impartial.

A teacher, a retired lawyer and a former baker have all been questioned as prospective jurors. Selection of the jury is expected to resume Thursday, with the trial slated to last up to six weeks.

The four individuals fighting the seditious conspiracy charges were part of a group of 11, including Rhodes, who were indicted in January. Only Rhodes and one other werre convicted at the first trial of the top count. Three others from that trial were acquitted of seditious conspiracy but found guilty of other charges.

The final two defendants from the group of 11 — Joshua James and Brian Ulrich — avoided trial by pleading guilty to seditious conspiracy a few months ago.

In a separate courtroom of the same Washington courthouse, U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, will preside over a third seditious conspiracy trial on Dec. 18. This proceeding involves five members of another right-wing group called the Proud Boys.

Earlier this week, lawmakers bestowed the Congressional Gold Medal — the highest honor that the Legislature can give — to several officers who responded to the Capitol riot on Jan. 6.

Elsewhere in Washington, the D.C. Circuit heard arguments Wednesday from former President Trump in a bid to dismiss a lawsuit against him, the Oath Keepers and two other militia groups. Police officers and 11 members of the U.S. House of Representatives are seeking civil damages in that case related to the Capitol riot. Trump claims he has immunity.

To date, the government has charged more than 880 people in connection with the Capitol riot. As of Nov. 6, about 337 people have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors and about 110 have pleaded guilty to felonies. Approximately 173 people have been sentenced to prison time.

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