Prospective jurors are gathered at the Fulton County, Ga., courthouse Friday to begin the process of jury selection in the trial of a Trump-aligned lawyer accused of scheming to keep former President Trump in the White House after losing the 2020 election.
Kenneth Chesebro faces seven charges linked to the alternate electors scheme that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s (D) office alleges was part of a broader criminal enterprise to subvert Georgia’s election results. He has pleaded not guilty.
Some 450 potential jurors from Atlanta and its nearby suburbs will respond to a lengthy questionnaire Friday put together by both parties and Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee. Then, on Monday, prospective jurors will be questioned over any potential biases or other reasons they cannot serve as a juror in the trial.
“We realize that this jury service will be inconvenient for many and extremely inconvenient for some — and a real hardship for a few,” McAfee told jurors Friday morning. “The questionnaire is going to provide you an opportunity to tell us your circumstances that may make this jury service inconvenient or a real hardship, and we will take those into consideration.”
On Oct. 27, another 450 prospective jurors will be summoned to the courthouse to fill out the extensive survey to ensure the jury pool is sizable enough. McAfee has said he hopes to have the jury sworn in by Nov. 3 “to eliminate any doubts that the statutory speedy trial deadline has been met.”
Chesebro was expected to be tried alongside co-defendant Sidney Powell after the pair invoked their right to a speedy trial, expediting their cases, but the ex-Trump campaign lawyer took a last-minute plea deal Thursday morning ensuring Chesebro would face a jury alone.
Powell pleaded guilty to six misdemeanor counts and was sentenced to six years of probation. She also agreed to “testify truthfully” against the 17 other co-defendants in the case, including Trump himself.
Chesebro could still take a plea deal during the jury selection process or even the start of the trial – and an interaction between McAfee and an unidentified woman caught on a jury selection livestream indicates those conversations are ongoing.
“We thought there was a plea?” the woman said.
“Who told you that?” McAfee asked.
The woman replied that “Che” said there was a plea, likely referring to Fulton County Clerk Che Alexander. Then the conversation became inaudible.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also reported hearing the hot-mic interaction.
If Chesebro doesn’t reach a plea agreement with prosecutors, his case will give a first look at the evidence Willis’s office has gathered of the alleged criminal enterprise.
Later Friday, Chesebro’s legal team is expected to question two members of the grand jury that investigated — and ultimately charged — Trump and his allies.
Chesebro attorney Scott Grubman argued last month that the lawyer’s counsel should be allowed to interview the grand jurors, suggesting that some of them may have felt “bullied” by prosecutors into voting in favor of charging the defendants.
McAfee agreed to allow the attorneys to question any willing grand jurors during interviews before the court with all parties present.
“Defense counsel here are entitled, and would be expected, to conduct a thorough investigation in the zealous representation of their clients,” McAfee wrote in his decision. “Setting aside scenarios involving harassment of some kind, the desire to simply talk to the grand jurors is not ‘illegal.’”
Due to Georgia’s speedy trial rules, a jury in Chesebro’s case must be empaneled no later than Nov. 6. The trial was projected to last up to five months, with prosecutors planning to call upward of 150 witnesses, though it’s unclear whether Powell’s plea will affect the timeline or witness lists.
—Updated at 11:28 a.m.