Federal appeals court upholds sentence in Jan. 6 case after claims of jury bias

Washington DC^USA.Jan^06^2021. After the rally^ those who gathered at the call of President Trump^ who were dissatisfied with the election results^ marched to Congress and appealed for their support.

A federal appeals court in Washington upheld the conviction of a former New York City Police Department officer who was charged for his actions on Jan. 6, 2021, after he claimed that he couldn’t get an impartial jury in Washington, D.C.

Thomas Webster, the former NYPD officer, was found guilty in 2022 of assaulting a police officer during the riot. Webster sought to have his case moved out of the nation’s capital, raising concerns about political bias by the jury pool, but a federal district court denied his request. His legal arguments echoed public comments about the partisan bent of DC from Trump and his allies about the criminal case the former president faces in the nation’s capital for his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

However, the unanimous three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said in a ruling Tuesday that Webster was wrong when he argued that the jury pool in the District of Columbia was too Democratic, too tied to the federal government and too surrounded by news coverage of the Capitol attack to produce 12 unbiased jurors who would decide his case.  The opinion was written by Barack Obama-appointed Judge Patricia Millett and joined by Judges Gregory Katsas and Neomi Rao, both Trump appointees. According to ABC News, the judges found that nothing in the record suggested that the jury pool had preconceived notions about Webster or knew who he was, and also determined that he failed to show that the district’s jury pool is incapable of producing fair juries for people facing charges that stem from the Jan. 6 attack. Millett wrote: “Webster asserts that the District overwhelmingly voted for President Biden and historically votes for Democratic candidates. That may be. But the political inclinations of a populace writ large say nothing about an individual’s ability to serve impartially in adjudicating the criminal conduct of an individual .. Webster’s focus on the jury pool’s opinion of January 6th and its perpetrators misses the point. We expect jurors to view significant criminal events in their hometown with an unapproving eye, whether it is the January 6th attack on the Capitol, a murder, or an armed robbery spree. Generalized disapproval of criminal conduct — even the specific conduct at issue in a defendant’s case — says nothing about a juror’s ability to be impartial in deciding whether a particular individual committed a crime or not.”

Webster was among the crowd of Trump supporters who attended the rally outside the White House on Jan. 6 and marched to the Capitol. Wearing body armor and carrying a Marine Corps flag, he confronted police officers outside the Capitol and was involved in an altercation with a member of the Metropolitan Police Department, knocking him to the ground and pushing his gas mask into his face.

In addition to upholding Webster’s conviction, the panel affirmed his 10-year prison sentence – one of the longest among hundreds of Capitol riot cases. He was the first Jan. 6 defendant to be tried on an assault charge and the first to present a self-defense argument.

Editorial credit: 72westy / Shutterstock.com