NewsThe Retrial: Governor Kidnapping Plot


Jury seated in governor kidnapping plot trial

KIDNAP MON web pic.jpg
Posted at 7:56 AM, Mar 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-08 22:35:38-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A jury is seated in the trial of four men accused of allegedly plotting to kidnap and kill Governor Whitmer. Opening statements are expected to begin Wednesday morning.

The court began the process of seating a jury at 9:15 a.m. in what will surely be a long and dramatic trial.

The news came out around 5:15 p.m. Tuesday that a jury of 7 men and 11 women had been seated. All of the jurors are white with the exception of one woman who is Asian. There are 12 jurors and 6 alternates.

The judge took some time Tuesday to explain the case and the charges to each batch of potential jurors that came in.

He asked those people to set aside their views on the governor and politics and asked people to be honest about it with themselves whether or not they could stay impartial.

Here’s how it works: prosecutors get to say no to 10 juror candidates.

The defense gets to strike 16 jurors and three alternate jurors for any reason.

We talked to Tracey Brame, an associate dean at Cooley Law School this week, about the balancing act both sides are playing to find people who will listen without bias.

“Politics aside, what you really want, whether you’re the prosecution, defense, or certainly the judge, is that you want someone who will listen to the particular facts of the case. Because no matter what the overarching themes are, they’re real people who are facing criminal charges and deserve a fair shake,” explained Brame. “Of course, it’s not a perfect process, you can’t get to know someone over the short time of jury selection, but they do try.”

When courts are seating a jury, they always ask a lot of pointed questions to see how people feel about certain topics relevant to whatever case they’re on.

Out of about 100 people called as part of the potential jury pool Tuesday, our reporters saw several dozen make it up to the jury box to be questioned.

Potential jurors are being asked about their thoughts on Governor Whitmer and politics, if they have any family in law enforcement, how closely they have followed the case, where they get their news, what plans they have for spring break, and if they have any military experience.

While attorneys cannot ask someone what their political affiliation is, the questions are designed to get a sense of that.

Several people spoke up on how they disliked or distrusted Governor Whitmer on Tuesday. Some of them were dismissed but the judge made it clear that distrusting the government 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.

“I’m able to see all sides of an issue and I think that would’ve been helpful. But also, for my family’s sake, I’m glad that I am free from this,” said one excused potential juror.

One excused potential juror, Tim Huizenga, plainly told Judge Robert Jonker he thinks the defendants are guilty.

“I can’t be fair on this case. I mean, I don’t have logistics problems, I can get there. But I’m so prejudiced that these guys are guilty… I don’t think I could change my opinion,” said Huizenga.

This case has gotten attention from all over the world and has become a symbol of what some consider government overreach during the pandemic.

The implications of these verdicts, whether guilty or innocent, could have ripple effects in our legal and political landscapes.

This is a bizarre case involving an alleged plan put in place by a group of men to kidnap Governor Whitmer after she implemented the state's first COVID restrictions.

The location of the planning, the training and brainstorming for the plot all happening at a local vacuum repair shop in Grand Rapids.

Back in 2020, a group calling themselves the Michigan Patriot Three Percenters, a sub-group of the Wolverine Watchmen, had plans in place to abduct the governor, try her for treason themselves, and then execute her before the November 2020 elections.

What they didn't know is that undercover FBI agents had infiltrated the group and were monitoring their every move.

It's these agents that the defendants now claim they were entrapped by to follow through with the plan, saying they wouldn't have planned to act the plan out without the agents pushing them to do it.

There are four federal suspects who the trial involves: Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta.

Two of the men involved, Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks, have already flipped on their codefendants and have agreed to testify on behalf of the government.

The other four men are expected to argue that there was no conspiracy at all.

Over the course of the investigation, more than 1,000 hours of audio and video were recorded, not just by the two undercover FBI agents who had infiltrated the group, but there were at least 11 other confidential sources collecting info for the agency.