Have you ever blown up a bomb? How do you feel about face masks, the right to own a gun, or the governor’s handling of the pandemic?
These are some of the questions potential jurors will have to answer in the alleged Gov. Gretchen Whitmer kidnapping plot case, which is set to go to trial in a month.
After much haggling, federal prosecutors and defense lawyers have agreed on a list of 75 questions that prospective jurors will answer in the case involving five men accused of plotting to kidnap Whitmer, largely fueled by anger over mask mandates and state restrictions on business and travel during the pandemic. The alleged plot also included a plan to blow up a bridge near Whitmer’s vacation house, prosecutors say, though defense lawyers have argued there was no real plan to kidnap the governor, and that the suspects were merely engaged in puffery and tough talk.
The suspects facing trial are:
If convicted on conspiracy kidnapping charges, the men could face up to life in prison.
A sixth defendant, Ty Garbin of Hartland Township, previously cut a deal in the case, pleaded guilty and is cooperating against the others.
Meanwhile, the jury questionnaire seeks to find out how jurors feel about the governor’s efforts to fight COVID-19, asking questions like: “Do you have any strong feelings about masks?”
It also gets into the issue of guns and militias, as the five defendants allegedly belonged to militias and are gun enthusiasts with strong views about the Second Amendment.
“Please explain your view on whether citizens should have the right to bear arms,” the questionnaire asks.
It also inquires the following:
The questionnaire also asks individuals to rank how they feel about Whitmer’s leadership during the pandemic, where they get their news from, what they know about the alleged Whitmer kidnap conspiracy and how they feel about it.
It also asks jurors to explain how they feel about the use of undercover agents in investigations, as this was how the feds busted the alleged kidnap plotters: They embedded undercover informants and agents in the group, who secretly recorded conversations at meetings and then helped arrange a meeting to buy explosives.
“Given any exposure to news of this alleged conspiracy, do you have any feelings
about the law-enforcement tactics used to conduct the undercover operation?” the questionnaire asks.
More: Whitmer kidnap suspects don’t want jury to hear comments in video
There’s also a section about the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, asking:
“How would you describe any exposure you have had to media accounts of the
January 6, 2021, events at the U.S. Capitol?”
According to the government, the six suspects and others held field training exercises and plotted the kidnapping in the basement of a vacuum shop near Grand Rapids. The plot was foiled as undercover agents and an informant were embedded in the group, whose members were ultimately arrested in a setup by the FBI.
Defense lawyers have argued that media coverage of the case has tainted the jury pool, though a request to move the trial to another location was denied as a judge concluded media coverage has been fair and impartial.
The defense has also taken issue with Whitmer’s statements about the case, arguing that Whitmer’s comments to Newsweek in a July 8 article specifically have harmed their clients’ ability to get a fair trial.
“The governor did not fall victim to any sort of actual action. Indeed, she didn’t know about any supposed plan, of course, until after the government filed its case,” defense lawyers have argued in court records, adding: “Potential jurors, especially women jurors, are likely to feel an emotional reaction” to such exhortations.
Here’s one excerpt that the defense was upset about.
“You know, I’ve been a target of white supremacists’ efforts to kidnap me, put me on some sort of a sham trial, and execute me,” Whitmer told Newsweek. “This is the horrible, destructive climate we find ourselves in.”
Contact Tresa Baldas: [email protected]
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