GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The jury says it has reached a decision on some charges but is locked on others in the trial of four men accused of plotting to kidnap and kill Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
First thing Friday morning, court staff brought the jury a piece of evidence they requested late on Thursday afternoon: a bag of pennies that prosecutors allege the defendants had attached to a firework during their preparations to carry out the kidnapping plot.
The jury took the bag with them to inspect.
Just before 11 a.m., the jurors sent a note to Judge Jonker. The jury’s note read, “We have come to a decision on several counts but are locked on others. How do we proceed from here?”
Judge Jonker told the jury to continue its deliberations, encouraging those in the minority to reconsider their stance. He also advised them not to come to a conclusion just to “get it over with.”
There’s no telling which counts the jury has decided on already and which they haven’t. They have been deliberating every day for eight hours since Monday morning.
Speaking to a group of reporters in the hallway of the courthouse, Christopher Gibbons, attorney for Adam Fox, said the case was in “uncharted waters.”
Gibbons previously told reporters he planned to file a motion after ten days of deliberations asking the judge to allow attorneys and defendants to remain out of the courtroom until a decision is reached. They’ve been shuffled in each time the jury has a question, shackled and handcuffed.
Wednesday morning, the jury asked Judge Robert Jonker for Post-it Notes and paperclips before resuming deliberations.
Tuesday morning, the second full day of deliberations, the jury asked to look at transcripts of witness testimony. Judge Jonker would not allow them to view transcripts while they deliberated because he says there is a “richness” to oral testimony that gets lost when it’s put into the written word.
On Monday morning the 12-person jury panel and three alternates were brought into the courtroom for a total of about 1 minute and 30 seconds. Judge Jonker told them this is not about politics or about the pandemic, this is a criminal case and they have to weigh the evidence and the law.
Just after 3 p.m. that day, the jury asked Judge Jonker for the definition of a weapon. He told them it is a category of devices that could readily be used or designed to destroy, injure or kill someone or something, as opposed to something you’d simply use for fun, and that the term could be applied very broadly based on context.
Adam Fox, Barry Croft, Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta were arrested in October of 2020 and charged with conspiracy to kidnap for allegedly planning to kidnap Governor Whitmer. Fox, Croft and Harris face additional charges.
The men were supposedly angry over COVID-19 restrictions and allegedly planned it from June to October 2020.
The defense has argued that the defendants were entrapped by undercover agents and informants who pushed the plan forward.
Three things have to be proven for the jury to reach a guilty verdict:
- that two or more people conspired the plan
- they willingly and voluntarily entered it
- they did things to advance it.
If convicted, all four men could spend the rest of their lives behind bars.