WILMINGTON, Del. — Jury selection in the Dominion Voting Systems defamation case began Thursday morning, as the Delaware court works to identify 12 jurors and six alternates to hear the arguments against Fox News and Fox Corp.
Potential jurors will be interviewed about their ability to render an impartial opinion by Judge Eric Davis on Thursday and Friday, as he and the attorneys narrow down the jury pool.
Potential jurors were handed a list of questions designed to ferret out potential biases in the jury pool and were asked to raise their hands if they answered yes to any question. The judge then began questioning jurors about why they answered yes and whether they believed they could be impartial despite any potential connection to or personal opinion about the case or the parties.
Here are some of the questions potential jurors were asked:
- Do you personally know any employees of Dominion or Fox, or have you ever been employed by or otherwise had any connection with either of these parties?
- Do you personally know, or do you have any opinion on, any of the following persons who may be identified at trial? Mike Lindell, Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell.
- Have you or a family member or a close friend ever worked in a newsroom?
- Do you avoid any Fox News programs, on television or any other social media, and if so, would this affect your ability to be fair and impartial?
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Dominion, which manufactures voting machines, alleges that Fox News damaged its reputation by promoting phony claims that it was tied to the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, paid kickbacks to politicians and “rigged” the 2020 presidential election by flipping millions of votes for Donald Trump to Joe Biden.
In a victory for Dominion in a pretrial hearing, the judge ruled that jurors will be instructed that all those claims are false.
Each side’s legal team is permitted six challenges, which allows it to eliminate jurors. But outside legal experts note that neither side will get a wish list in this process.
"Delaware is not as strict about conflicts as maybe other states are," said David Finger, a media lawyer who practices in Delaware. "It's a small state, people generally only one or two degrees of separation of everyone else. The fact that you may know a lawyer on the case may or may not be sufficient to get you rejected."
The trial is expected to last six weeks, during which jurors will be asked to consider if Fox News acted with knowing falsity or reckless disregard for the truth when they broadcast and published conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and if damages are due. They will also be asked to weigh whether Fox Corp. was involved enough to be liable in the alleged defamation.
There will be no video or audio broadcast of the trial. On Thursday, Davis denied a request by a coalition of media organizations to broadcast audio.
“I have gone as far as I can go with respect to access,” he told attorneys on Thursday morning ahead of jury selection.
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The jurors will be anonymous to the public and media — identified only by numbers — but will be free to speak to the media after the verdict is rendered, if they so choose.
The selection process is critical, because the jurors will be required to reach a unanimous decision to find the Fox defendants liable for defamation.
Anthony Michael Glassman, a longtime media lawyer who has represented both outlets and their subjects in media cases, said the lawyers will hope the judge allows them to glean insight into jurors' views on the underlying partisan issues.
"I've tried enough jury cases to know — unless I'm in the courtroom trying the case or unless I'm at least there looking at the jury — you can always be surprised," he said.