Letter: Trump’s post-conviction defenders have forgotten the rule of law

Several years ago I was asked to represent a prominent Republican elected official who had found herself in the crosshairs of a Democrat county attorney. She was seeking re-election to her office and was indicted by the county attorney for the alleged misuse of public funds. The timing of the indictment, comments made by the county attorney and the questionable charges all lead us all to conclude that this was nothing but a political prosecution. The charges had been filed close to the election — too late for the Republicans to get another candidate on the ballot. The prosecutor was overheard saying “I don’t need to convict her; I only need to indict her.” And the charges themselves were weak and not well investigated.

We always felt this was a political prosecution to keep the Republican from winning re-election and to put a Democrat in her place. Our client refused to call the prosecution political and refused to allow others to do so either. Even state Republican leaders refrained from jumping into the fray and calling out the county attorney.

On May 30, former President Donald Trump was convicted by a jury of 12 in the state of New York of 34 counts of felony falsifying business records.

It has been discouraging for me to read the comments of some local elected officials who have made wrong-minded comments about the recent Trump prosecution. It’s been especially disappointing to read comments from local politicians who are lawyers.

Sen. Mike Lee, who by all accounts was once a highly skilled lawyer, called it “a political prosecution to help Joe Biden.” Lee went on to remark, “I don’t respect the verdict. Nor should anyone.” Utah Rep. Celeste Maloy, another prominent lawyer, said, “The justice system was weaponized in this case to keep President Trump off the ballot. This has been about politics, not law, from the beginning.”

What these and other lawyers seem to have forgotten is what is called the rule of law. It’s one of the first things we were all taught in law school.

They have forgotten that Trump exercised his constitutional right to a jury trial. The judge didn’t decide the case. Twelve jurors did. And the jurors were selected by agreement of the prosecution and Trump’s own lawyers. They have forgotten that these 12 jurors were instructed at the outset of the trial that the former president was presumed to be innocent. They have forgotten that those 12 jurors swore to follow the law which also states that the prosecution bore the burden of proof in that case. They were instructed that Trump did not have to prove anything. These elected lawyers have forgotten that in order to convict the former president all 12 jurors had to unanimously agree that there was not a reasonable doubt as to his guilt.

That’s called the rule of law and it’s what makes the American legal system the best and fairest in the world. So, yes, it’s been incredibly disappointing for me, a lawyer for 42 years, to hear other lawyers make untrue and defamatory remarks about a jury verdict in an American court in 2024. Those remarks tend to erode public confidence in a judicial system that is the product of the framers of our Constitution.

There is a far better way to prove that a prosecution is wrong and political. My Republican client knew that years ago. She insisted on exercising her right to a jury trial. She showed the prosecutor and the rest of Utah how wrong the prosecution was.

She was acquitted of all counts.

Greg Skordas, Salt Lake City

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