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August 29, 2018

Federal defendant unable to get jury to hear "Trump defense" relating to "flipping"

This New York Daily News piece reports on a notable echo from one of President Trump's many notable comments on the law.  The piece is headlined "Attorney for crack dealer tries the President Trump defense: Don't trust snitches," and here are the details:

President Trump’s disgust with snitches is catching on in court. An attorney for a crack dealer began to argue in closing statements last week that a cooperating witness can’t be trusted — but a judge stopped him before he could cite a “presidential tweet.”

“You know what’s funny? Yesterday Manafort was convicted,” Nkrumah said, alluding to the trial of Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The Manafort trial featured testimony from a cooperating witness. Nkrumah was immediately stopped due to an objection from the government.

Out of earshot of the jury, Nkrumah explained that he planned to cite Trump’s remark that “It’s called flipping and it almost ought to be illegal.”... “I believe that the president’s opinion of cooperators is just as pertinent as anyone else’s opinion about cooperators,” Nkrumah explained.

Judge Gregory Woods disagreed and prevented Nkrumah from pursuing the argument further to the jury. “I did not permit the defendant to comment on that presidential tweet,” Woods said, apparently referring to a tweet of Trump’s remarks.  He said the Manafort trial had nothing to do with the drug case, and that Trump’s remarks would needlessly inject a “politically charged, polemic issue.”

“I should note the tweet is that it ‘almost ought to be illegal,’ but as we all know, and as I am going to instruct the jury, it is not illegal. And so I was also concerned about the confusion that may be wrought upon these jurors by presenting that as the view of the speaker,” Woods said.

The jury convicted Russell of a charge of conspiracy to deal crack, but acquitted him of the more serious charge of carrying a firearm in connection with dealing the drugs.

Prior related post:

August 29, 2018 at 12:52 AM | Permalink

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