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'Fasten your seatbelts': Why Trump’s Georgia trial 'could be the most chaotic' in recent memory

Former President Donald Trump's criminal trial in Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis' Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act case against him and eighteen of his associates for their alleged conspiracy to steal the 2020 election will be televised. But the Arizona Mirror's Michael Kiefer warns on Monday that as "TV pundits applaud the fact" that the entire planet will watch Trump face justice, "it could also potentially be the most chaotic trial of our lifetime."

"For precedent, we have only to look back 10 years to Arizona’s Jodi Arias murder trial in 2013," Kiefer writes. "It could have been an ugly, second-degree domestic murder, but was instead charged as a death penalty case by an overreaching prosecutor. It was hyped nationally by a cable TV talk-show host. It had an attractive male victim and an attractive female defendant, naked photos of both and X-rated phone calls. Every minute of the trial, and all the salacious details, were broadcast live and captivated not just Arizonans, but people all over the world."

That "legal dust devil," Kiefer recalls, "whirled into a full-fledged tornado over social media. Trial groupies stalked the attorneys and sent them explicit death threats. One expert witness checked into the emergency room because of stress. Other witnesses refused to testify at all, leaving jurors without information that very well could have changed the outcome of the trial."

Trump's case, Kiefer continues, "has already sparked violence — not against individuals, but against the establishment and American democracy itself. And whereas the Arias trial had been a perfect storm of TV meeting social media, the upcoming Trump trial in Georgia adds a third element: outrageously polarized politics."

Other high-profile trials, like those of Aaron Burr in 1807, Bruno Hauptmann in 1935, and OJ Simpson in 1995, were "media circuses," Kiefer explains. The latter in particular, Kiefer notes, "set the standard for the cable business model: 'One story, 24/7.'" That trend was amplified in the Arias case, with Kiefer alluding to reporter Mike Watkiss calling it the "gold standard of jurisprudence in the age of social media."

Similar to what is being observed as Trump prepares to take on prosecutors and a jury of his peers, Kiefer says that "many viewers were not content just to watch the trial" of Arias.

"I would get angry calls saying that Jodi had just taken a pill, and how was she allowed to do that?" Kiefer recollects. "Well, she has migraines, I responded. Or complaints that 'she just slipped a note to that Mexican lady, who gave it to someone in the gallery.' That was a birthday card for Arias' mother, who was attending the trial, passed to her by Maria De La Rosa."

KIefer details how "the court groupies became more aggressive" and "tauntingly started singing La Cucaracha and took photos of us together, which they posted on websites with names like 'Fry Jodi Arias.'"

Moreover, Kiefer adds, "When the defense team arrived at the courthouse every morning, they parked in secure spaces under the courthouse. Their cars were screened for bombs. When they returned to their cars at night, Willmott said, they were chaperoned by a sheriff’s deputy 'with his hand on his gun all the time.'"

Kiefer foresees parallels occurring as the Trump drama unfolds. "We've already seen the January 6th insurrection and the attacks on FBI offices, the threats against the federal judge in DC assigned to Trump's federal election-interference case. What lies ahead?"

Watkiss told Kiefer that Trump's trials will be "pyrotechnics from the get-go" because they "are the most important event of our lifetime. If we don't try this before the cameras, it will be a disgrace."

Meanwhile, Beth Karas of Court TV believes that even though "Trump's power to draw crowds to court is diminishing, at least given his failure to get protestors to his arraignments," defense attorney Jennifer Willmott stressed that Trump supporters "will probably do their best to influence the outcome" of Trump's proceedings.

Kiefer points out that this is "already happening in Georgia," where lawmakers loyal to Trump's Make America Great Again credo are clashing with GOP Governor Brian Kemp over their efforts to impeach Willis for enforcing the law.

Additionally, Kiefer highlights that "Republican Congressman Jim Jordan, as chair of the House Judiciary Committee is investigating Willis and her indictments. His request for information was rebuffed by Willis, who responded, saying, 'Your letter makes clear that you lack a basic understanding of the law, its practice, and the ethical obligations of attorneys generally and prosecutors specifically.'"

Willis is also working to protect the identities of jurors (and the safety of her own family) amid escalating threats from right-wing internet warriors.

Kiefer urges the public to "fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy ride."


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