Stephen Maseda | Nonsense and Sophistry

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

Re: Gary Horton commentary, June 5. 

Right on cue, Mr. Horton’s latest column comes out extolling the righteousness of the New York guilty verdict. Most of it is nonsense, but some has the appearance of truth, such as his assertion that “12 honest jurors, approved, and selected by Donald Trump’s own defense counsel, voted 12-0 for all 34 counts against him.” Initially, I wonder when Mr. Horton wrote this column, six weeks ago or so when the trial started? 

Mr. Horton does not even know the names of the jurors, so how can he possibly vouch for each of them as “honest”? The last part of this assertion demonstrates that he knows nothing about how juries are “selected,” and as a result is completely wrong, in fact backwards. Anyone who has actually tried jury trials will tell you the attorneys do not select the jury, they unselect it. 

This is how a jury is selected: The judge calls for some number of prospective jurors, in this case almost certainly more than 36 from the general jury pool, people who have been called for jury duty that day. Neither side gets to select who is called for jury duty, nor who is selected to respond to the judge’s request. From this group, the clerk randomly picks 12 potential jurors. Neither side has any control over whom the clerk calls. Each side can then excuse a limited number of the prospective jurors. However, they have no control over who will replace the excused jurors, as the replacements are also selected randomly by the clerk. Once each side passes or has used all of its challenges, the judge will announce that “we have our jury,” for good or bad. In a district where 95% of the jury pool voted for Biden. 

Thus, it is pure sophistry to assert that the 12 jurors were “approved and selected” by Trump’s lawyers. 

Finally, neither party has nor should have control over who will be the judge on the case, as the judge is selected by a random process as well. However, it is my understanding that for some reason, Judge Juan Merchan was not selected at random. He was appointed contrary to the normal selection process. While jury selection is important, the judge is critical. He controls what the jury hears and sees, and instructs them on the law, which he decides upon as well. In every jury trial I have been involved in, the jury viewed the judge as a fair, neutral arbiter. Which was true in all but one instance. Thus, it is the judge who holds control over the trial. 

Mr. Horton starts his article with the statement you are “presumed innocent until proven guilty.” Fair enough, but there are others just as sacrosanct, such as “the prosecution has the burden of establishing each element of the crime alleged beyond a reasonable doubt” and “the 12 jurors must agree that each of the elements has been so proven,” in other words – the verdict must be unanimous. 

Finally, this verdict will be appealed, and until that appeal is resolved, the verdict is not final. So Mr. Horton in his exuberance has jumped the gun. There are a number of errors that were committed by the judge, including the foundational questions of whether he should have recused himself, and his denial of a motion to transfer the case, so that the defendant could receive a fair trial. He also made a number of erroneous evidentiary rulings, which he magnified in his instructions, literally all of which favored the prosecution. By far one of his most serious errors was his charge to the jury that allowed them to reach a non-unanimous verdict, an error he compounded by refusing to have the jury complete a special verdict form (which would have demonstrated whether the verdict was not unanimous, and therefore invalid). It was this bit of legerdemain that infected the entire proceedings from indictment through to the verdict. I could go on, but space limits what can be said. After all, this is not the Trump brief on appeal, which will be much more extensive. 

I am also growing tired of the Democrats’ mantra that “no one is above the law.” By their actions, Democrats have time and time again demonstrated that the people they favor are above the law. The law applies to everyone, including Alvin Bragg and Judge Juan Merchan. 

Finally, Joseph Stalin could have and almost certainly asserted that the victims of his show trials were not above the law as well. The relevant statement is that the law is to be equally applied to all, consistent with constitutional principles. If it was, then Bill Clinton would have been charged with and tried for perjury, Hillary Clinton would have been tried for destruction of evidence and mishandling of classified documents, (among other things), and Joseph Biden would be charged with mishandling of classified documents and corruption. You may think this to be over the top, but we have now had our show trial, and a substantial portion, perhaps a majority, of us believe what everyone can see. 

A sad day for the American judicial system, and frankly for America. 

Stephen Maseda

Santa Clarita

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