Politics

Willis Makes Desperate Plea To Prevent Appeals Court From Considering Disqualification

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.


Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has filed what some observers are calling a desperate plea to prevent an appeals court from hearing arguments to disqualify her from former President Donald Trump’s trial over allegations of perjury and misconduct.

Attorneys representing Trump have asked a district appeals court to reconsider a previous ruling by Judge Scott McAfee, which allowed Willis to continue overseeing the case even if she dismissed Nathan Wade, the prosecutor with whom she had a private personal relationship that likely began before his hiring for the case. Trump’s legal team has cited a speech Willis delivered in January, describing it as evidence that her politicization of the case extends beyond the hiring of Wade and demonstrates further bias, according to reports.

“There is simply no trial court error to be found in the decision to deny disqualification,” Willis wrote in a filing on Monday, adding that her speech was “too vague, brief, and limited in scope” to warrant disqualification.

“Days of evidence and testimony failed to disclose anything like a calculated pre-trial plan designed to prejudice the defendants or secure their convictions,” the district attorney added. “The applicants have not identified any public statement injecting the District Attorney’s personal belief as to the defendant’s guilt or appealing to the public weighing of evidence.”

The appeals court has until May to decide whether to overturn McAfee’s ruling allowing Willis to remain on the case or to disqualify her based on evidence of malfeasance and bias.

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In January, Willis spoke at the Big Bethel AME Church to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. During her address, she criticized Republicans like Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), whom she accused of inciting racist attacks against her. Willis dismissed suggestions that her execution of duties should disqualify her, stating to the congregation, “You can’t expect black women to be perfect.”

“Dear God, I do not want to be like those that attacked me. I never want to be a Marjorie Taylor Greene who has never met me, but has allowed her spirit to be filled with hate,” she said at the time. “How does this woman, who has the honor of being a leader in my state, how is it that she has not reached out to me?”

Trump’s attorneys, meanwhile, have stated that the decision allowing Willis to remain in charge of the case “confounds logic.”

Several legal analysts are sounding the alarm about her comments.

Atlanta defense attorney Andrew Fleischman told Salon that Willis “should not” be making those comments.

“Prosecutors announcing at the outset of a case who they’re indicting, the charges being brought and why is fine, but they should not make public statements that have no legitimate law enforcement purpose, even in the context of a political campaign,” Fleischman said.

“They strengthen arguments for gag orders and disqualification, and they harm the public’s trust that this trial is about holding people accountable for crimes they have committed, rather than as part of an overall political strategy,” Fleischman added.

Georgia State University law professor Clark Cunningham made similar comments, telling Salon that Willis’ comments to CNN sounded like “campaign remarks” that “were addressed to an audience of voters for the upcoming primary and general election.”

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Fleischman added, “On the other hand, the defense may prefer that she keep talking and may ask to submit clips of her interviews as evidence at trial.”

“I do think that the credibility of the case has taken a terrible hit because of her conduct,” Cunningham said, arguing that the “odor of mendacity” that Judge McAfee wrote in his decision earlier this month remains over the prosecution and “dissipates if she takes a leave.”

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