WASHINGTON — The jury is set for the first Jan. 6 trial, with 16 Washington, DC, residents seated to decide the fate of a Texas man charged with participating in the riot, bringing a handgun to the US Capitol, and threatening his children afterward to not cooperate with law enforcement.
Jury selection in the case of Guy Reffitt took two days, with the judge, prosecutors, and Reffitt’s lawyer sifting through 56 prospective jurors, drilling down on what they already knew about the events of Jan. 6 and where they got their information. As the judge noted on the first day, simply knowing about the attack on the Capitol wasn’t enough to get removed from the pool; she was looking for whether people had “fixed opinions” that could get in the way of impartially weighing the evidence.
The 16 people chosen for the jury — nine men and seven women — includes four alternates.
Every person who was brought in for questioning on Tuesday knew something about Jan. 6, similar to Monday’s proceedings. Some had stopped following the news after it happened, while others had continued to track updates about the investigation. Nearly everyone said they had some opinion about the attack, generally negative, but most said they didn’t know anything about Reffitt specifically and could set their feelings aside and base a decision solely on the evidence presented in court.
For some summoned Washingtonians, though, their opinions proved too strong. On Tuesday, one man appeared visibly angry, sitting with his arms crossed as he explained that when he learned the case was related to Jan. 6, he thought, “Guilty.” The man brought up the involvement of the QAnon collective delusion and the antisemitic sentiments that are part of that, and said that his mother is Jewish. He said he found it hard to follow the judge’s questions because he was so upset to be in the same room as the defendant. There was no disagreement between the prosecutors and Reffitt’s lawyer that he should be struck.
One man who described seeing news coverage about Reffitt and the allegations against him was struck. The government argued that the man had said that he thought he could set aside what he knew, but Friedrich said that she’d indicated at the start that she’d draw a line at anyone who already knew details about Reffitt’s case.
Two prospective jurors who appeared on Tuesday worked for the Architect of the Capitol; one made it through to the next round of vetting while the other did not. The first man said he was a woodcrafter and had been with the Architect’s office for about five months — and that he was leaving that job in a week because it “wasn’t my cup of tea.” He said his position didn’t cause him to favor the government going in, and that he hadn’t been involved in repairs related to damage to the building on Jan. 6. There was no request to strike him right away, and he ended up being chosen for the jury.
The second man had worked for the Architect of the Capitol for six years, most recently at the Library of Congress next to the main Capitol complex; he hadn’t worked directly on repairs related to the attack but said that it had delayed a project by two months. He said he worked closely with the US Capitol Police and knew an officer who had been assaulted on Jan. 6 and suffered physical and emotional trauma. He said it would be difficult to set aside what he knew about the attack and his feelings, but thought he could do it.
Welch didn’t ask to strike the man from the pool at the time, a decision that appeared to surprise the judge. After a later private discussion with the lawyers, though, Friedrich announced that he’d been removed.
Having a different political ideology from many of former president Donald Trump’s supporters wasn’t grounds for immediate exclusion. One man said that he’d participated in Black Lives Matter protests in recent years, and was at Lafayette Square in downtown Washington for a demonstration on June 1, 2020, when police violently cleared the area; Trump walked through it soon after to pose for a photo op at a nearby church. The man said that he didn’t have a generally negative view of police in light of that experience, but believed there were “systemic” issues with how law enforcement operated.
The man said he was “horrified” and “ashamed” by what happened on Jan. 6, but also felt that he could evaluate the case of an individual in an unbiased way. Reffitt’s lawyer William Welch III asked if the man could set aside his beliefs, even if he might find a defendant’s beliefs “offensive.” The man said that he could because he understood that in court what mattered were a person’s actions, not their beliefs. Welch did not ask Friedrich to strike him at the time, but he ultimately wasn't chosen for the jury.
One woman who expressed deep anxiety about the prospect of serving as a juror and having someone’s freedom in her hands also told the judge that a friend had recently discussed Reffitt’s case with her, and said something to the effect of, “His ass needs to go to jail, he did that.” The prosecutor and Welch were united in asking the judge to strike her from the pool.
Earlier in the day, Assistant US Attorney Risa Berkower brought up a woman who was questioned on Monday and said that she’d gotten much of her information about Jan. 6 from conservative commentator Julie Kelly. Berkower said they’d learned since then that Kelly had promoted the conspiracy theory that the Jan. 6 attack was a “false flag” event carried out by the government, and wanted to know if they could question the woman further about whether she had a bias against the government. Friedrich said no, that Berkower had a chance to ask questions the day before and that the government could use one of its strikes. The woman was not selected for the jury.
The jurors who were chosen included:
a Department of Defense employee who listed CNN and Fox as his sources of news about Jan. 6
a woman who said it was “horrifying” to watch the events of Jan. 6 but said she felt less “uneasy” now and was confident she could put aside her feelings
a retiree who said he had minimal knowledge of Jan. 6 because he is “not a real news guy”
a woman who recalled seeing stories of US Capitol Police officers who were affected but few other details
a scientist and naturalized US citizen born in England who said she thought at first that people who went to the Capitol were exercising their right to disagree, later came to believe that people involved in “physical” conduct like attacking police and climbing walls went “beyond free speech,” but felt “very confident” she could follow the judge’s instructions to set aside her views
a software company employee who said he believed Jan. 6 was “exceedingly negative” for democracy but also believed in people being innocent until proven guilty and understood that the government bore the burden of proof
The prosecution is expected to deliver its opening statement to the jury on Wednesday morning. On Tuesday, Friedrich expressed some concern about the use of expletives in the government’s presentation, explaining that she didn’t want to “inflame” the jury from the start, while also saying that any evidence of what Reffitt said could come into the trial. The prosecutor said he could replace certain letters with asterisks in the government’s visual aids, but got the OK from the judge to recite quotes in their entirety.
Correction: Nine men and seven women were chosen for the jury. An earlier version of this post misstated the gender breakdown.