The Mercury News Weekend
Could foreman's words tank special grand jury charges?
Almost as soon as the foreperson of the special grand jury in the Georgia election meddling investigation went public this week, speculation began about whether her unusually candid revelations could jeopardize any possible prosecution of former President Donald Trump or others.
Emily Kohrs first spoke out in an interview published Tuesday by The Associated Press, a story that was followed by interviews in other news outlets. In detailed commentary, she described some of what happened behind the closed doors of the jury room — how witnesses behaved, how prosecutors interacted with them, how some invoked their constitutional right not to answer certain questions.
Lawyers for Trump say the revelations offered by Kohrs shattered the credibility of the entire special grand jury investigation. People hoping to see the former president indicted worried on social media that Kohrs may have tanked a case against the former president. But experts said that while Kohrs' chattiness in news interviews probably aggravated Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who's leading the investigation, they were not legally damaging.
Willis likely “wishes that this woman hadn't gone on the worldwide tour that she did,” said Amy Lee Copeland, a former federal prosecutor and criminal defense attorney in Georgia who's not involved in the case. “But is this a headache that is grinding the machine to a halt? It's not. It's just one of the many frustrations that attends the practice of law.”
Trump's attorneys in Georgia, however, are jumping on the interviews.
Drew Findling and Jennifer Little, who represent Trump in the Fulton County case, said they've had concerns about the panel's proceedings from the start but have kept quiet out of respect for the grand jury process. After Kohrs' interviews, they felt compelled to speak out.
“The end product is, the reliability of anything that has taken place in there is completely tainted and called into question,” Findling said. But he also said he wasn't attacking “a 30-year-old foreperson.”
“She's a product of a circus that cloaked itself as a special purpose grand jury,” he said.
Findling and Little hadn't filed any challenges in the case by Thursday but said they're “resolute” as to Trump's innocence and keeping their options open.
The special grand jury was impaneled at the request of Willis, who is investigating whether Trump and his Republican allies committed crimes as they tried to overturn his narrow 2020 election loss in the state to Democrat Joe Biden. The panel didn't have the power to indict but instead offered recommendations for Willis, a Democrat, who will ultimately decide whether to seek charges from a regular grand jury.