I have been trying cases before juries for almost 40 years. In every jury trial I have ever tried or observed, there is a very important instruction given to the jury before the jury hears any evidence.
All lawyers who try cases are familiar with Missouri Approved Instruction 2.01. It has been adopted by the Missouri Supreme Court and it must be given in any civil jury trial. It is always Instruction No. 1. No instruction is any more important than any other, but this one is a very important one.
Among the subjects covered in this instruction are such things as what the jury should do when objections are made to evidence; that the attorneys will make opening statements but what the attorney says in an opening statement is not evidence. It tells the jurors not to do any outside research. This means that the internet should not be accessed to gain information about the evidence the parties or any of the subjects discussed in the trial.
Why do you think this cautionary instruction is given at the beginning of the trial? The answer is obvious: The parties should be given a fair trial, and the jurors must consider the evidence presented.
There is one other cautionary instruction given in Instruction No. 2.01. I publish in its entirety.
“Justice requires that you keep an open mind about the case until the parties have had the opportunity to present their cases to you. You must not make up your mind about the case until all evidence, and the closing arguments of the parties, have been presented to you. You must not comment on or discuss with anyone, not even among yourselves, what you hear or learn in trial until the case is concluded and then only when all of you are present in the jury room for deliberation of the case under the final instructions I give to you.”
With the eyes of the world upon us, we are about to witness one of the most important trials in American history. The Constitution considers it to be a very important trial because the chief justice of the Supreme Court presides over the trial. According to the papers written by the founders of the Constitution, much thought was given to the power of impeachment extended in Article I.
Is apparent that Chief Justice Roberts takes his role in the impeachment trial very seriously. In his annual end of the year address he asked “his judicial colleagues to continue their efforts to promote public confidence in the judiciary.” He also said that we “should celebrate our strong and independent judiciary, a key source of national unity and stability.”.
While I don’t always agree with Justice Roberts’ rulings, I admire him for his willingness to put aside partisan politics and to attempt to do the right thing. I might disagree with him about what the right thing is to do, but I will never question his integrity or his sincerity.
Last year, he engaged in a public spat with President Trump, issuing a statement rebuking Trump’s criticism of federal judges. He said that we “do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges.” Trump tweeted that Roberts was an absolute disaster and a “nightmare for conservatives.” Justice Roberts’ response is that judges “should reflect on our duty to judge without fear or favor, deciding each matter with humility, integrity and dispatch.” He has even referred to his role as a judge as an umpire calling balls and strikes.
Justice Roberts will preside over the trial, but he will not make the ultimate decision as to whether the president shall be removed from office. Our forefathers required that the vote be by two-thirds of the senators voting.
When jurors begin their duty in a jury trial in Missouri, they take an oath that states that they will “well and truly try the matters in issue and a true verdict render according to the law and evidence.”
The senators take an oath when they are sworn into office that they “solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that I take the obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which am about to enter.”
There is grave concern that many senators have decided that they will not consider the evidence. The junior senator from Missouri is attempting to have the Article of Impeachment dismissed even though there is no provision for that in the Constitution.
The Senate majority leader wants a vote without any evidence being presented and many Senators have stated that they don’t care what the witnesses have to say. The president has blocked many witnesses from even testifying and has resisted production of documents. Additional evidence continues to be revealed almost daily.
The country is obviously divided, and a significant number of people believe the impeachment should not have occurred. Under the Constitution only the House of Representatives makes that determination. If senators have already decided the issues from the Articles of Impeachment before hearing any of the evidence, the trial in the Senate will be a waste of time.
A trial is contemplated under the Constitution. Justice requires that the senators keep an open mind until the parties have had the opportunity to present their cases. If the senators do not obey their oaths, there is an election in November to remind them of that.
Bob Buckley is an attorney in Independence, www.wagblaw.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org