WASHINGTON – A former juror in the trial of Roger Stone, a longtime associate of President Donald Trump, defended the forewoman whom the president accused of “significant bias” that influenced the guilty verdict.
Juror Seth Cousins told CNN on Wednesday night, “The irony here is that Tomeka Hart, who we elected as our foreperson on a secret ballot,” was “perhaps the strongest advocate in the room for a rigorous process, for the rights of the defendant and for making sure that we took it seriously and looked at each charge.”
Stone, who awaits sentencing Thursday, was convicted in November of lying to Congress, obstructing the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and threatening a potential witness. His lawyers requested a new trial in light of Hart’s social media posts that were critical of Trump.
Cousins insisted that Hart’s opinions did not affect how she handled her responsibilities.
“Without her in the room, we would have returned the same verdict, and we would have returned it more quickly and without looking as deeply into the evidence,” he said. “I’m firmly convinced of that.”
Hart’s political views came under scrutiny after she defended the prosecutors in the Stone case on Facebook last week.
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Four career federal prosecutors withdrew from the case after the Justice Department intervened and lowered the sentencing recommendation for Stone. The department called their initial recommended sentence of seven to nine years “extreme, excessive and disproportionate.” That intervention came shortly after Trump denounced the recommendation as a “miscarriage of justice.”
“It pains me to see the DOJ now interfere with the hard work of the prosecutors. They acted with the utmost intelligence, integrity, and respect for our system of justice,” Hart, a former school board member in Memphis, Tennessee, wrote on Facebook.
Blogger Mike Cernovich uncovered several social media posts from Hart that were critical of Trump, which were reported by Fox News.
“Now it looks like the fore person in the jury, in the Roger Stone case, had significant bias. Add that to everything else, and this is not looking good for the ‘Justice’ Department,” Trump tweeted after the Fox report.
“I think it’s appalling for the president to be attacking American citizens for fulfilling their duties to our republic,” Cousins said. “I think he damages our democracy by attacking this way, and I wish he would stop.”
Cousins defended the jury’s handling of the deliberations in an op-ed Nov. 22 for The Washington Post. He wrote that his “favorite person on the jury was an African American woman from Tennessee,” a description that fits Hart.
He wrote that after the verdict, he was “taken aback by the accounts of pundits and politicians that our decision was somehow the product of a deeply polarized, partisan divide.”
“I believe I speak for my fellow jurors when I say we are proud of our decision. We listened carefully to the testimony of a series of witnesses and carefully examined every element of every charge and its defense, and we unanimously agreed that each had been proved beyond a reasonable doubt,” Cousins wrote.
Contributing: Kristine Phillips
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