Michael Ian Black: I Could Be a Fair Trump Juror, Even Though I Despise Him

Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast
Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

As the first criminal trial against a former President of the United States gets underway, the biggest question facing both sides is this: How do you find twelve impartial jurors when it comes to the subject of the twice-impeached sexual assailant, serial liar, fraudster, and Bible salesman who once held the highest elected office in the land?

At this point, is anybody impartial? How is true impartiality regarding Donald Trump even possible? If 12 such people even exist, I wouldn’t trust them to sit on a toilet, let alone a jury.

Nevertheless, the Constitution demands we seat 12 Americans to sit in judgment, and so I tried to put myself in the shoes of a prospective juror. Could I set aside my own somewhat biased (I hate him) feelings regarding the defendant to ensure that he gets a fair trial?

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I think I could.

Look, I’ve never sat on a jury before. The closest thing I have to legal training is portraying a Puerto Rican street hustler on NYPD Blue. Even so, my understanding of the job of “juror” isn’t to sit in judgment of the person, only the acts which that person is accused of having performed. I could do that.

In this case, the facts of the case seem relatively straightforward: Guy has a one-night stand with a woman, then tries to pay her off when said “guy” decides to run for president. I don’t think those facts are in any doubt, despite the fact that Trump, absurdly, continues to deny any involvement with the woman in question.

The question facing jurists is whether the scheme to hide those payments violated the law.

All you gotta do is show me the law in question, and let me figure out whether he broke it. My personal animus towards the defendant is irrelevant.


Of course, things are never “easy” when it comes to Trump. I would expect my time as a juror to be met with long-winded harangues, character assassination, pointless motions, and the occasional courtroom nap by the elderly defendant.

Even so, I believe I could reach an even-handed verdict regarding a person who regards even-handedness as weakness.

Because I’m a better American than Donald Trump.

So are you.

So is anybody who regards our Constitution as something grander than a Bazooka Joe comic.

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Trump understands our judicial system better than most, having spent his entire career suing and being sued. The man has probably spent more time in courtrooms than Judge Judy. So when he complains that he is being unfairly targeted by overzealous prosecutors and compromised judges, he understands the prejudicial effects of his words.

Trump understands that the only person undermining the legitimacy of the proceedings is Trump.

The reason he questions the court’s legitimacy is because, for the first time in his soft and pampered life, he faces the prospect of actual jail time. In the overripe honeydew melon sitting above his shoulders, Trump no doubt believes not that he is above the law so much as he stands apart from the law. When you’re a star, he once said, you can do whatever you want.

Those of us in the national prospective jury pool don’t generally share such beliefs. Instead we still cling to the somewhat quaint notion that all Americans are equal under the law.

All Americans.

We expect that, if we should ever find ourselves accused of a crime, 12 of our peers will look us in the eye and determine our guilt or innocence.

We don’t besmirch the judge or the judge’s family. We don’t insult the DA or the prosecutor. We don’t send out our minions to plead our case on friendly news networks. There’s no need to issue gag orders to us because there is no danger that any of our friends will take it upon themselves to harm anybody involved in the proceedings.

So yes, I could be impartial regarding the crimes the former president is accused of having committed. Because I believe that even the most vile among us deserve a fair trial. It’s the same reason John Adams volunteered to represent the British soldiers accused of instigating the Boston Massacre. It’s the same reason thousands of Americans answer the call every single day when asked to report for jury duty.

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I could sit there, day after day, looking at that smirking face, weigh the facts, and render a judgment of innocence, if such a judgment is warranted.

I could do such a thing because I do not believe that my grievances against the defendant are relevant to whether or not he broke the law. I could do such a thing because I’m an adult who cares about the institutions this nation has fostered for over 200 years. I could do it because the stakes for any criminal trial are so high, they will permanently impact the duration of a person’s life, even if that person is insulated by money and power.

I could do it because the nation disappears if our judicial system, however flawed, disappears.

I trust that whoever ends up getting selected to sit in that jury box will do their best to be impartial. I believe that they will endeavor to produce a correct verdict based on the evidence and the law. I believe that every single person in that courtroom is a better American than the defendant, and it is because they are better than he will ever be that I believe Donald John Trump will receive the verdict he deserves.

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