A Georgia judge shot down Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ hope to try former President Donald Trump and all the co-defendants in her racketeering case on Oct. 23, calling it an “absolute necessity” to sever the case.
Judge Scott McAfee ruled Thursday that separating the 17 defendants who did not demand speedy trials from the two who did, Ken Chesebro and Sidney Powell, is a “procedural and logistical inevitability.” McAfee further stated that “additional divisions” may be required, a decision that would be made “once the many pretrial motions have been resolved.”
“The precarious ability of the Court to safeguard each defendant’s due process rights and ensure adequate pretrial preparation on the current accelerated track weighs heavily, if not decisively, in favor of severance,” he wrote.
McAfee cited logistical concerns, including the trial’s location and length, and the “complicating” factor of five defendants who are litigating to have their cases removed to federal court. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear oral arguments Friday for Mark Meadows’ appeal to move his case after the district court shut down his effort. (RELATED: Judge Rejects Mark Meadows’ Attempt To Move Case To Federal Court)
Judge Scott McAfee rules that severing the remaining 17 Fulton defendants from Ken Chesebro and Sidney Powell, who demanded speedy trials and are going to court on Oct. 23, is “simply a procedural and logistical inevitability” pic.twitter.com/hXFd26QjuP
— Tamar Hallerman (@TamarHallerman) September 14, 2023
“How a grant of removal midtrial would impact this case, particularly on the issue of double jeopardy, remains unclear and unanswered in the State’s supplemental briefing, and overlooking or wrongly adjudicating these legal uncertainties risks automatic acquittal,” the judge wrote.
McAfee noted that the Fulton County Courthouse “simply contains no courtroom adequately large enough to hold all 19 defendants, their multiple attorneys and support staff, the sheriff’s deputies, court personnel, and the State’s prosecutorial team.”
He said the court must also “consider the ripple effects of a months-long, multi-defendant trial on the local criminal justice system, sidelining dozens of defense counsel from handling other cases and preventing this Court — and quite likely most colleagues — from managing the rest of the docket.”
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