Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano appeared Tuesday morning on Fox & Friends, boldly declaring that former Trump campaign associate Roger Stone deserves a new trial due to allegedly undisclosed bias of the foreperson of the jury that convicted him — and President Donald Trump himself amplified Napolitano’s message.
There’s just one problem: The story is based on a lie. While right-wing media have been harping on the supposed surprise about the jury foreperson’s political background, it’s really not a surprise at all. At most, one slight new detail could be discovered now — and even that’s not clear, either — after Stone’s lawyers had ample opportunities to bring the whole matter up as some kind of serious issue.
Napolitano said that in light of unearthed tweets by Tomeka Hart, who has publicly revealed herself to be the foreperson of the jury, Judge Amy Berman Jackson has an obligation to reopen her consideration of motions by Stone's lawyers. (Later in the day, Jackson rejected a motion by Stone’s lawyers to delay his sentencing.)
Later in the morning, Trump tweeted direct quotes from Napolitano:
Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who also played a key role in the recent impeachment saga — and continues to push a proven disinformation campaign against Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, with Fox News’ help — also tweeted in approval of Napolitano.
(Interestingly, Napolitano was largely sidelined from Fox News’ coverage of Trump’s impeachment after he openly espoused the view that Trump committed a wrong worthy of impeachment. But for this case right now, he’s back on the president’s good side.)
But as conservative writer and attorney David French explains, this entire attempt at a narrative is based on a false premise: In reality, Hart’s political leanings and activities were clearly known during the jury selection process, and not even Stone’s legal team tried to strike her from the jury pool (emphasis in original):
Hart (identified only as Juror 1261, but identifiable by her statement that she ran for Congress and other biographical details) was questioned by the trial judge and by defense counsel. After first asking questions about Hart’s prior service on a grand jury, the judge asked a series of key questions:
So let’s recap. Stone’s lawyers knew that she was generally familiar with Stone, they knew she ran for Congress, they specifically asked about political bias, and then refused to seek her removal.
French adds a caveat: Based on just the immediately available information, it is not totally clear whether lawyers in the case knew that Hart had written critical tweets about Trump and the Mueller investigation. (The public does not have access to Hart’s submitted jury questionnaire.) But he nevertheless states: “Thus, it’s possible that there were material omissions in her written answers, but again—Stone’s lawyers knew she ran for Congress and they still didn’t initially seek to strike her.”
Stone was convicted on seven charges, including lying to investigators and witness tampering. (Among other things, he had threatened the dog belonging to a cooperating witness, Randy Credico.)
Fox News and other right-wing media have been on a campaign of urging Trump to pardon Stone. Meanwhile, Attorney General Bill Barr intervened in the case to overrule the sentencing recommendations against Stone, resulting in the resignations of four Department of Justice professionals from the case.