It might be impossible to select a fair Florida jury for Donald Trump

"Not Guilty," says a Trump sign

The court will have to select 12 Florida jurors who can leave their opinions of the former president at the door when Donald Trump goes on trial in his case involving classified documents. That will be difficult.

Jurors are expected to evaluate the case on its own merits, not based on their prior opinions of the defendant. But that might be very challenging when dealing with someone as well-known and divisive as Mr. Trump, state attorneys told the BBC.

A unanimous verdict from the jury is required for conviction. The US government would lose its case with just one juror siding with Mr. Trump.

In order to weed out biased jurors, federal prosecutors and Mr. Trump's defense team will employ all available means, including aggressive questioning, vetoes, legal maneuvers, and perhaps even psychologists. But even the most meticulous strategies can fail.

Rob Mendell, a trial lawyer in Florida, said: "The added element is people with agendas.". There are snakes in the grass, so keep an eye out for them. ".

According to allegations made by the Justice Department, Mr. Trump and a personal assistant stole sensitive documents from the White House, kept them insecure locations at his home, and hindered government efforts to recover them.

In his defense, Mr. Trump's team has entered a not guilty plea, and he has referred to the investigation as a political "witch hunt.". He has claimed, without providing any supporting evidence, that Democratic President Joe Biden is attempting to meddle in his political campaign.

The trial is scheduled to begin tentatively on August 14 by the federal judge presiding over the case. Although the trial's start date is anticipated to be postponed, this situation has brought attention back to the difficulty of choosing a fair and impartial jury in a country where Mr. Trump enjoys the unwavering support of some while being held in contempt by others.

This federal court's politically diverse jurisdiction, the Southern District of Florida, will elect 12 residents to decide the case's outcome.

In some counties, like Miami-Dade, Joe Biden won the 2020 election handily. In contrast, Mr. Trump received 53% of the vote in some areas, including Key West in Monroe County. Additionally, the sizable and vocal Cuban community in Miami is very supportive of him.

Lazaro Ecenarro, a 40-year-old Miami native who was present at Mr. Trump's arraignment on June 13 as a member of the public, brushed aside the "fraudulent charges" made by the "mob created by the Democratic party and the media.".

Jeff Roche, a different Miami resident who the BBC spoke with that day, called Mr. Trump a "con man and a liar.".

This is the political environment from which the judge, the prosecution, and the defense must choose impartial jurors during the crucial voir dire procedure—the legal term for jury selection.

During the jury selection process, both sides are permitted to question prospective jurors. They both want to appoint impartial jurors who may also be able to render a favorable verdict for them.

Everyone refers to it as jury selection, according to Mr. Mendell, the trial attorney. Actually, though, it's jury exclusion. ".

In order to find potential jury members, Mr. Mendell claimed that if he were Mr. Trump's attorney, he would assemble a group of political analysts and psychologists.

He would try to pinpoint important demographics that surveys indicate are more likely to be in favor of the former president; two examples include Cuban Americans and those connected to the police.

The experts predicted that prosecutors would closely scrutinize prospective jurors for any indication of support for Mr. Trump.

The aforementioned "snakes in the grass" mentioned by Mr. Mendell, however, might slip through even the most thorough questioning.

Dr. Tamara Rice Lave, a professor at the University of Miami School of Law, warned that "someone may not tell the truth during the voir dire selection.". She claimed that if a person who hid their political beliefs was chosen for the jury, "those jurors poison the other jurors - and they vote to acquit.".

Finding a jury panel in Florida without ardent Trump supporters, in Mr. Mendell's opinion, will be very challenging. Despite the oath they take and the instructions the judge gives them, he said, "people who will never convict him under any circumstances.".

The process of eliminating potential biased jurors, which is largely overseen by judges. Aileen Cannon, a Florida judge whom Mr. Trump himself nominated in 2020, will be responsible for carrying out that task in his case.

Tensions are likely to be high once the trial gets going because Mr. Trump has used his social media platforms to disparage the prosecution as a "witch hunt" and charge that they are trying to "rig [sic] the 2024 Election.".

On January 6, 2021, Mr. Trump's supporters "literally stormed Congress," according to Dr. Lave. Additionally, the rhetoric, particularly from the political right, has grown more violent.

Dr. Lave pondered, "How are people going to feel in this contentious environment, with protesters protesting at the courthouse" or spouting right-wing talking points. "I can see how a person chosen to serve on this jury might feel anxious. ".

Yero Basart in Cafe Versailles
Yero Basart is a fervent admirer of the former leader.

Locals in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood appeared ready to support Mr. Trump at Cafe Versailles, a Cuban restaurant, despite the serious allegations against him.

A local independent journalist eating lunch at Cafe Versailles the day after Mr. Trump stopped by following his court appearance said, "We support Donald Trump because he knows about freedom.".

We Cubans understand the oppression, the lack of freedom, and dictators, he said, and it's crucial that the general public is aware of this.

Suyis Parra, a Venezuelan immigrant who now calls Miami home, said she could not yet vote or serve on a jury but that she had family members who could. She was in line behind him.

And she added that they would all back Donald Trump.

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