Opening statements begin in governor kidnapping plot trial

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Posted at 7:56 AM, Mar 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-09 11:01:29-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — It is day two of the trial against the men who allegedly planned to kidnap and kill Governor Gretchen Whitmer back in 2020 and opening statements are underway.

The government has the burden of proof, so they gave their opening statements first.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Roth gave the argument which included him reading, verbatim, messages the defendants sent to one another on encrypted chats.

Roth asked the jury why they needed an encrypted chat if this was free speech. He asked why they were using code words for things like guns and bombs.

Those messages make up the bulk of the 400-plus entries of evidence.

Once Roth wrapped up his statements, it was the defense's turn.

All four defendants have their own representation, so we have four opening statements from the defense side.

We've heard a lot of the same from them, saying that there was no agreement between the defendants and thus there was no conspiracy.

The defense is also placing a lot of the burden on an undercover FBI who goes by the name Dan.

They say it was Dan who concocted the plan to kidnap Gov. Whitmer. We are expecting to hear from that informant later on in this trial.

About 100 potential jurors came through the courthouse Tuesday and another 60 were on standby to come in Wednesday if a jury wasn't chosen. Surprisingly, a jury was confirmed by the end of the day on Tuesday and opening arguments begin Wednesday morning.

The jury consists of seven men and 11 women. All of the jurors are white with the exception of one Asian woman. Twelve of them will serve on the jury and six will serve as alternates.

Six men were initially charged at the federal level in this case.

Two of those men have since reached a plea deal with prosecutors, agreeing to testify against the other four.

The reason many legal experts believed jury selection was going to take days is because of the case's high profile.

The jury chosen must be impartial, meaning they can't have opinions about the evidence already out there and must be open to a fair process. They have to set aside their biases and issue a verdict solely on the evidence presented at trial.

Tuesday, several people spoke up on how they disliked or distrusted Governor Whitmer. Some of them were dismissed, but the judge made it clear that distrusting the governor doesn't automatically disqualify someone from sitting on this jury. They just have to be able to put that aside to return an impartial verdict.

Chief U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker looked as if he wanted to get this trial moving and wanted to select the jury in a day, keeping breaks minimal.

The trial is expected to take over a month to get through all the evidence, with opening statements beginning Wednesday.

Follow along with FOX 17 throughout the day as we bring you the latest updates from day two of the trial.

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