For coverage of the first day of the Libby trial and a deconstruction of Scooter Libby’s I-forgot defense, click here.
The second day of the trial of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby was again devoted to selecting a jury. The task at hand remains finding sixteen Washington residents (twelve jurors and four alternates) who hold no harsh opinions about the credibility of the Bush administration–particularly that of Vice President Dick Cheney, who has been named by the defense as a possible witness for his former chief of staff. The quickest way off this jury has been to admit one possesses strong doubts about Bush crowd’s honesty in selling the case for war in Iraq. Juror No. 1298 said that she liked “to think” she could be “mature enough” to allow her respect for the presumption of innocence to trump her concerns about the Bush administration. But when federal district court Judge Reggie Walton asked if a witness from the Bush administration would have a “strike against them,” she replied, “Probably.” He responded, “We appreciate you being here.” In other words, you can go now. Juror No. 1980 bluntly said, “I cannot believe any statement from the Bush administration.” She was told her services would no longer be needed.
Of the first 24 potential jurors questioned by the judge, the prosecutors and the defense attorneys, eight were dismissed. (Some had reasons for being let go besides being administration critics.) A few who mildly expressed questions about the Bush administration–but who claimed they could still fairly evaluate the testimony of Cheney or any other Bush administration witness–were allowed to proceed to the second round. Yet Libby’s attorneys will later be able to remove them from the juror with preemptory challenges.
It could well be that the jury ends up with no members who suspect that the Bush White House deliberately misrepresented the case for war. Can someone who holds such a view not fairly assess the testimony and evidence in the case of a senior Bush administration official charged with lying to the FBI and a grand jury? What if a potential juror enters the courtroom with the firm belief that Cheney and other Bush aides are believable? Would that not be a bias that would create a disadvantage for the prosecution?
One potential juror who handles information technology business development at Lockheed Martin noted that she respects the commander in chief and Bush’s “reasons for going to Iraq.” She explained that citizens outside the government are not privy to enough information to second-guess such presidential decision-making. Is that not a prejudice (perhaps an unhealthy one) in favor of Bush administration officials? She also said that she is currently chasing a billion dollars in federal contracts for Lockheed Martin. Might she have an interest in pleasing administration officials? She was not kicked out of the potential juror pool; special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald ought to take a closer look at her in the next round.
Lawyers and philosophers can debate what comprises bias and how to vet assumptions held by potential jurors. But it’s certainly a gain for Libby that Washingtonians who believe the Bush administration misled the nation into war are not permitted to judge his actions.
And then there’s Juror No. 0677. She is a television producer. She claimed she had paid attention to the case in a “circumfery” manner, and she has booked some of the journalists involved in the case. She was questioned about her ties to these reporters and whether she could evaluate their testimony without favor. She said yes. As for Cheney, she said, “I don’t have any objective feelings about whether he would be more or less credible in this case.”
She also mentioned that she was once an intern at the National Journalism Center and then an intern at The Washington Times, the conservative newspaper owned by Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church. There were no queries from the judge and lawyers about these connections. Yet might she be a conservative harboring pro-administration inclinations? Though the National Journalism Center has a bland name, it is a rightwing outfit that trains young conservative journalists and finds them jobs. Not all of its graduates are ideologically minded. But the group was launched in part by the American Conservative Union. It has received funding from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the John M. Olin Foundation, leading conservative foundations. (The John M. Olin Foundation funded itself out of business in 2005.) Several years ago, the National Journalism Center was taken over by another conservative group, the Young Americas Foundation.
Jurors ought not be blackballed for their political views. But if a National Journalism Center graduate makes it on to the jury, the Libby legal team would have reason to be pleased. Fitzgerald might want to ask her a few more questions.
DON”T FORGET ABOUT HUBRIS: THE INSIDE STORY OF SPIN, SCANDAL, AND THE SELLING OF THE IRAQ WAR, the best-selling book by David Corn and Michael Isikoff. Click here for information on the book. The New York Times calls Hubris “the most comprehensive account of the White House’s political machinations” and “fascinating reading.” The Washington Post says, “There have been many books about the Iraq war….This one, however, pulls together with unusually shocking clarity the multiple failures of process and statecraft.” Tom Brokaw notes Hubris “is a bold and provocative book that will quickly become an explosive part of the national debate on how we got involved in Iraq.” Hendrik Hertzberg, senior editor of The New Yorker notes, “The selling of Bush’s Iraq debacle is one of the most important–and appalling–stories of the last half-century, and Michael Isikoff and David Corn have reported the hell out of it.” For highlights from Hubris, click here.