OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
A Fulton County judge has sided with former President Donald Trump and his co-defendants against District Attorney Fani Willis and prosecutors.
Willis wanted all of the 19 defendants, including the former president, to go on trial in October, but Judge Scott McAfee smacked that down and said the case would be severed.
ABC News reported.
Judge Scott McAfee said severing the remaining 17 defendants was “a procedural and logistical inevitability,” and did not rule out the possibility that “additional divisions” may be required later.
The judge, however, said that any defendant who does not waive their right to speedy trial before Oct. 23 will “immediately” join the trial. Trump has already waived his speedy trial rights.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis had been seeking to have all 19 defendants in the case stand trial together, arguing that multiple trials would create an “enormous strain” on the court.
McAfee, in his ruling, noted issues regarding due process and the voluminous discovery in the case.
“The precarious ability of the Court to safeguard each defendant’s due process rights and preparation ensure adequate pretrial preparation on the current accelerated track weights heavily, if not decisively, in favor of severance,” his order stated.
The judge said that there was no courtroom they could use that would accommodate 19 defendants in one trial.
Last week, Judge McAfee made light of the challenges of trying so many people simultaneously, The Washington Post reported.
“It just seems a bit unrealistic to think that we can handle all 19 in 40-something days,” he said.
In all four of his criminal cases, Trump has attempted to push back the trial dates. The recent maneuvering raises the possibility that a trial won’t be held until after the November 2024 election, despite the fact that the Georgia charges are not subject to a presidential pardon.
Considering that McAfee is anticipated to announce a trial date for Trump in Georgia soon, the following is how the defense tactics are influencing that timetable:
Five of the 19 co-defendants have filed motions to remove the case from state court to federal court, which could prolong the proceedings for months.
Meadows’ attempt was rejected by a federal judge on Friday, but he quickly filed an appeal with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. On the other’s requests, the judge has not yet made a decision.
McAfee has suggested the removals make it difficult to accomplish Willis’s goal of trying all the defendants in state court next month.
Some legal professionals think that if one defendant’s request is granted, the charges against the others will also be automatically moved.
What would happen if the case is moved after the trial has started was a concern raised by McAfee at the hearing.
“Where does that leave us in the middle of a jury trial?” McAfee said. “Is double jeopardy attached? Have you now risked your entire prosecution because this case has now been removed to federal court? And we’ve sworn in a jury that has been presenting evidence against all these other co-defendants.”
MSNBC host Ali Velshi asked network legal analyst Glenn Kirshner, “What is the basis of arguing that severance in a case like this is improper?”
“So, Ali, anytime we indict a co-defendant case, the prosecutors have a keen interest in keeping all defendants in the same trial,” Kirschner said. “The defendants ordinarily have a keen interest to try to get themselves removed from, or severed out, of the joint trial. Why is that? Because any time co-defendants are tried separate from their fellow co-defendants — and I’ve had this happen many times as a prosecutor — they will make what they call ‘the empty chair defense.’”
“So I can almost promise you that one of, for example, defendant Chesebro’s defenses, if he is sitting there, either alone or maybe with Sidney Powell and one or two other co-conspirators, charged co-defendants, I can almost see him saying, ‘You know what? John Eastman, the constitutional scholar, the law school Dean, who should be sitting in that empty chair right there, but he’s not. He is the true architect behind the alternate electors scheme because he assured me there was legal support for it,'” Kirshner said.