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Judge rips Trump tweets on 'tainted' juror while Stone's lawyers admit they never Googled her

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Image: Amy Berman Jackson
Judge Amy Berman Jackson attends an awards breakfast for pro bono counsel at the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse in Washington, on April 21, 2016.   -   Copyright  Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP file
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The judge presiding over the Roger Stone case on Tuesday ripped comments from the president and his allies about the jury's forewoman as dangerous, while lawyers for the convicted former Trump adviser struggled to show how the panelist "tainted" jury.

The forewoman has been repeatedly bashed publicly by President Donald Trump over the past week, since Stone was sentenced to over three years in prison for obstructing a congressional investigation of Russia's 2016 presidential election meddling. Trump, and Stone's lawyers in sealed court filings, have accused the juror of being biased and tainting the jury.

But two other jurors testified Tuesday that the forewoman had made sure there was no rush to convict Stone, while Stone's attorneys said they'd never never even Googled the forewoman they claim might have given them "misleading" answers during jury selection.

"The president of the United States used his Twitter platform to disseminate a particular point of view about a juror," Judge Amy Berman Jackson said at a hearing in the case. "While judges may have volunteered for their positions, jurors are not volunteers. They are deserving of the public's respect and they deserve to have their privacy respected."

She noted that Fox News host Tucker Carlson has gone after the juror on air, blasting her as an "anti-Trump zealot."

"Any attempts to invade the privacy of the jurors or to harass or intimidate them is completely antithetical to our system of justice," Jackson said, noting that they could also jeopardize jurors' safety. "Individuals who are angry about Mr. Stone's conviction may choose to take it out on them personally."

As she was speaking, Trump tweeted again about the juror — and the judge.

"There has rarely been a juror so tainted as the forewoman in the Roger Stone case. Look at her background. She never revealed her hatred of 'Trump' and Stone. She was totally biased, as is the judge," Trump tweeted. "Miscarriage of justice. Sad to watch!"

Jackson made her comments at a hearing involving Stone's request for a new trial, details of which were revealed Tuesday. Stone's lawyers say a new trial is necessary because of some of the juror's social media posts before the trial, where she criticized Trump as racist.

In contrast to Trump's assertions that the juror was "totally tainted," Stone's lawyer Seth Ginsberg told the judge her posts about Trump "imply a bias" against Stone, because he's a longtime friend, supporter and adviser to the president. Stone's attorneys also said they believed the juror disregarded court orders not to read about the case during the trial, but didn't explain their basis for the allegation.

The juror testified in a sealed courtroom, with the audio piped into another room for reporters and spectators, and said she had followed the judge's instruction.

The forewoman was not named in court but has previously spoken publicly about the case. She told lawyers during jury selection she was a Democrat who'd run for Congress in Tennessee in 2012.

Stone's lawyers focused on an answer in her jury questionnaire, where she hadn't answered a yes or no question about whether she'd written "anything for public consumption" about Stone or special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. In a space provided for more information, she wrote, "I can't remember. I may have. I'm honestly not sure."

Stone's lawyers never asked her about her the response. It's since emerged that she'd tweeted a single story about Stone's arrest in January of 2019, with the comment, "Brought to you by the lock her up peanut gallery."

Stone's attorneys also suggested her questionnaire answers about her opinions on Department of Justice and FBI were "at best misleading." "It may be that she believed them to be truthful, but she concealed evidence regarding her views that would have been important for the court and the parties to understand her bias," he said.

During questioning in jury selection, Hart said she could be fair and impartial.

The judge asked if Stone's legal team, which included jury consultants, had done any research on Hart's background at all during jury selection.

The judge suggested that the posts could have been easily discovered by Stone's team of lawyers and jury consultants during jury selection with a simple Google search. Stone lawyer Robert Buschel acknowledged they had not done one.

"I think it's a regular practice by trial lawyers these days to Google individuals on the jury panel list, wouldn't you agree?" Jackson asked. Buschel responded that they didn't have enough resources to do such checks.

During questioning in jury selection, Hart said she could be fair and impartial in Stone's case, and his attorneys did not object to her service.

Two other Stone jurors were called to testify at the sealed hearing, and their names were withheld from the public because of the judge's concerns about the jurors' safety.

Both testified they thought the foreperson was fair and never attempted to impose her views or shared outside material about the case.

In one instance, the foreperson encouraged the jury to take another look at a charge where they had almost all decided that Stone was guilty.

"We had a problem where most of us agreed on our answer, we already said he was guilty, but it was the foreman that insisted that we examine question 3, charge 3 a little more," said the second juror to testify.

"It was the foreperson who insisted that that level of attention be paid to that count even though some of you were already ready to decide?" Jackson asked.

"Yes," the juror replied.

The judge said she'd rule on the motion at a later date, but signaled that she was prepared to reject the defense claim that the forewoman's answer was misleading, despite her series of anti-Trump social media posts.

"Having an opinion about the president or his policies does not mean that she could not fairly judge the evidence about Roger Stone," Jackson said.

The judge ended the hearing with a promise to issue a decision soon. If, as appears likely, she denies the motion for a new trial, Stone's lawyers will almost certainly appeal his conviction and ask that he be allowed to remain out on bail while the case is on appeal.

Stone was present in court Tuesday but said nothing during the roughly five-hour hearing.