Is it possible to lose a trial before it even begins? Yes. We saw precisely that scenario play out during Paul Manafort’s first criminal trial. Manafort based his defense almost entirely around a series of pre-trial motions aimed at getting the evidence thrown out, and getting Special Counsel Robert Mueller thrown off the case. Once that all failed, by the time the trial began, the only remaining question was how many charges Manafort would be convicted on. Now history is rapidly repeating itself.
Yesterday we saw Paul Manafort’s legal team begin arguing its pre-trial motions in front of the judge. To say that it didn’t go well would be quite an understatement. According to the transcripts that have been made publicly available, Manafort’s team tried pushing two key motions. The first was to get the trial moved out of Washington DC, where the jury is expected to be more likely to convict him, and into some other venue. But when the judge asked defense lawyers where they’d like it to be moved, they had no answer. The judge then laughed them off. It got worse.
Manafort’s lawyers then asked that the start of the trial be delayed, arguing that they haven’t had time to sort through the mountain of evidence submitted by the prosecution, because they just got done with the first Manafort trial. That’s when the judge told the defense attorneys that it was their own fault, because they had insisted on having two different trials to begin with. The judge did grudgingly delay the official start of the trial by a week, but decided to leave the start date for jury selection intact, meaning the defense doesn’t really get any extra time.
What may be most important here is that the judge is already exasperated with Paul Manafort and his lawyers, and she’s already calling them out for their attempted stunts. Judges try to be impartial, but they’re human. If a judge thinks your side is acting in bad faith, that judge may be less likely to grant your motions going forward. Manafort’s defense strategy is once again based on convincing the judge to agree to motions that would sabotage the prosecution. This judge is showing no interest in playing along. Manafort is on his way to losing this trial already.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report