The third day of jury selection in Sines v. Kessler saw the plaintiffs dealt another loss by U.S. District Court Judge Norman K. Moon, who denied their Batson challenge to a juror the plaintiffs wanted on the jury and that defendant’s had peremptorily struck on Monday.
A Batson challenge is a challenge by the opposing party to a peremptory striking of a potential juror, when the claim is that the juror was dismissed because of protected reasons such as race, religion or sex.
Plaintiffs argued that the juror in question was dismissed solely because he was black. The 20 defendants had argued Monday and today that it was a combination of the juror’s demeanor, his “too perfect” answers on the pre-trial survey and in questioning, and his bias against symbols of Southern heritage such as statues of Confederate war heroes.
Defendants noted that they had allowed a number of other black jurors, and Defense Attorney Josh Smith specifically pointed out that plaintiffs – who represent powerful Jewish interest – had used all of their peremptory strikes exclusively on White potential jurors.
Plaintiffs “don’t have clean hands here,” Smith said in court. “Especially considering that all their strikes were White people.”
Judge Moon also declined to grant the plaintiffs request for additional strikes for both sides, as the jury selection was carried over into its third day.
Several potential jurors said they were aware of who some potential witnesses were, including Wes Bellamy.
The final jurors were interviewed and seated Wednesday morning.
After jury selection, attorneys for both sides conferred with Judge Moon. Notably, pro se defendant Cantwell asked that his bodycam footage of a pre-rally meeting be admitted into evidence when the trial begins.
“It's specifically alleged that we conspired to commit racially motivated violence at that august 11 planning meeting," Cantwell said.
Cantwell said plaintiffs made this charge not knowing he had recorded the entire meeting, and that absence of any planning of violence should be admitted.
Judge Moon declined to rule on any specific piece of evidence but that the two hours of bodycam footage is “something collateral that just doesn't go to anything..."
Also of note on Wednesday, Edward Rebrook, the attorney for the National Socialist Movement, was absent and reportedly admitted to a local hospital for unknown reasons.
The 10 plaintiffs and their attorneys allege that the defendants “conspired to commit racially motivated violence” at the legally permitted Unite the Right rally held in August 2017. The 2017 lawsuit – amended in 2019 – lists 20 White nationalist organizations and individuals, including the Daily Stormer’s Andrew Anglin, Matt Parrot, Matt Heimbach, Jason Kessler, Richard Spencer, Christopher Cantwell, the League of the South, the National Socialist Movement, the defunct Traditional Workers Party and Identity Evropa, and at least two chapters of the Ku Klux Klan.
The lynchpin of Jewish activist attorney Roberta Kaplan’s lawsuit is the claim that organizers planned the rally with the purpose of committing violence. The independent Heaphy Report, which plaintiffs have desperately tried to avoid being introduced as evidence in the case, proves this accusation to be a blatant falsehood.
The third day ended after the 12th and final juror was sat in the early afternoon.
Both sides asked Judge Moon that once final jury selection was made that opening statements be scheduled for Wednesday morning.
Jury instruction and opening statements begin Thursday at 9 a.m. ET. The trial is expected to last four weeks.