The prosecutor in Georgia who filed charges alleging that former President Donald Trump and others unlawfully attempted to invalidate the results of the state’s 2020 election is pleading with the judge to safeguard the jury.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis took the proactive measure after the grand jurors who last month returned the comprehensive 41-count indictment against Trump and 18 other people came under harassment as a result of their personal information being made public online. It reflects the fiercely divisive sentiments surrounding the legal actions taken against the previous president.
In a motion submitted on Wednesday, Willis said that the information about the grand jurors was uploaded “with the intent to harass and intimidate them.” The motion also claimed that Willis’ private information as well as that of her family and staff members had been published online “intertwined with derogatory and racist remarks” about the district attorney, who is a Black woman.
Georgia typically permits news cameras in the courtroom for trial processes, although still and video photographers are frequently told not to display photos of the jury. The potential jurors are sometimes referred to by numbers rather than names during the jury selection process.
Willis is requesting that Judge Scott McAfee of the Fulton County Superior Court forbid defendants, members of the news media, or anyone else from producing or disseminating pictures of jurors or potential jurors.
Additionally, she requests that the judge forbid the release of any details that could be used to identify them, including “physical descriptions, telephone numbers, addresses, employer names, and membership affiliations of all jurors or prospective jurors.”
According to legal experts, it is customary for indictments in Georgia to list the identities of the grand jurors, in part because it gives defendants the chance to contest the grand jury’s membership. Therefore, the indictment contained the names of the 23 grand jurors who heard the district attorney’s evidence against Trump and the others and decided to approve charges. They were instantly the targets of “doxxing,” short for “dropping dox” or papers, which is the internet publication of information about someone with the intent to harass, threaten, defame, or extract retribution.
If trial jurors’ identities were made public, it is “clearly foreseeable” that this would take place, endangering their “ability to decide the issues before them impartially and without outside influence,” impairing the defendants’ right to a fair and impartial jury, according to Willis.
Sworn statements from the Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum and an investigator in Willis’ office were included with the motion.
Schierbaum said that listings of the grand jurors’ information “called for harassment and violence against the grand jurors” and that his department worked with the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office and other local law enforcement agencies to ensure that safety measures were put in place to protect them. Those efforts “require a significant devotion of our capacity and represent a strain on law enforcement resources to allow them to complete their civic duty without being subjected to unnecessary danger.”
Information about Willis and the grand jurors was posted on the dark web, a part of the internet hosted within an encrypted network and accessible only through specialized tools that provide anonymity, district attorney’s investigator Gerald Walsh wrote.
Federal authorities are aware of the Russian-hosted website where the information was released and that it is “uncooperative with law enforcement.” Similar posts on federal employees, prosecutors, judges, and their families have been posted by users of that website in other states as well. Walsh penned