Tuesday, August 15, 2023
Fulton County Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis spoke about the Georgia Grand Jury Indictment issued yesterday. A review of the Indictment and my thoughts are below:
- The Indictment has 19 defendants and all 19 of these individuals face a RICO charge. Each of these defendants also has at least one other charge. No one is indicted solely for the conspiracy. This is noteworthy if one is looking at what might be dropped if there is a plea agreement reached with any of the parties.
- The Indictment has 41 total felony counts and it is 97 pages long.
- The two individuals facing the most counts are former President Donald Trump and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani - each with 13 counts.
- Three individuals have a total of two counts, the RICO charge and one other charge (Mark Meadows; Jeffrey Clark; Jenna Ellis).
- The 97-page Indictment includes a 3-page Table of Contents. It is reader and law student friendly.
- DA Fani Willis in her press conference repeated 2X that the individuals are all presumed innocent, and that the prosecution must provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Willis stated in her press conference that she wants this case to go to trial within six months.
- She stated that those accused have until noon on Friday, August 25th to voluntarily surrender.
- She also stated that she intended to try all of the defendants together. Let's dissect that statement - 19 defendants, all need to have separate defense counsel and some are likely to have more than one defense counsel. Because of the possibility of future pleas, it would be ethically difficult for defendants to share counsel. My questions - Can a Georgia courtroom hold that many people? How long might a trial like this last? Is this manageable from a court perspective?
- It would be difficult to try all of these defendants together, but the likelihood of it being a mega-trial is slim. It is ironic that Defendant Guiliani is facing a mega-trial, a practice of the past in New York. A practice fraught with issues not only of logistics, but of what happens if there is an error midway through the trial - you may have to start over for all. And the appeal can be massive if there is a conviction - think of the size of the transcript. Now think about the attorney fee costs of handling a case that will take more time because of the number of defendants. Mega trials can be difficult to handle. When cases are brought with many defendants, courts may choose to break them into groups and proceed with each group separately. Convictions from the first group can make the remaining cases proceed quickly as others are then quick to move to plea agreements. On the other hand, if you have a not guilty in the first group, others may be apt to take the risk of going to trial. Weighing the considerations here requires skilled counsel. Most importantly, will the time line for accepting pleas be open once trials start?
- With this many defendants there are likely to be some joint defense agreements so that parties can share evidence and the costs of the litigation. But these can also be fraught with issues, especially if one of the parties in a joint defense agreement decides to plead.
- One should focus not only on who is charged, but also on who is not charged. The provider of the evidence - will it be more than telephone calls, documents, and tapes? Or will individuals be presenting this evidence? Notice on page 15 - "unindicted co-conspirators Individuals 1 through Individual 30" - the DA already may have a good number of folks cooperating.
- This is an important case - like Indictment # 3, this case involves alleged conduct that tests whether we will continue to be a democracy.
More to come later .....