A jury has been seated in the Dominion vs. Fox News trial, kicking off at last what is being billed as the “defamation trial of the century,” with the prospect of the network’s star hosts and Rupert Murdoch himself taking the stand.
With the 200 seats in courtroom 7E of the Leonard Williams Justice Center in Wilmington nearly filled, primarily by a swarm of reporters from around the country. Judge Eric Davis had the members sworn in at about 10:45 AM ET.
The jury is six men and six women. Seven members of the jury are Black, and five are white or Hispanic. Also selected were 12 alternates, including six men and six women. Five of the alternates are Black, and seven are white or Hispanic. One alternate was excused after he told the judge that he could not serve and explained further in a private meeting with him and the Fox and Dominion attorneys.
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The 12 jurors were identified in open court only by number, out of concern that their names would be revealed in such a high profile case. The judge noted that it was perhaps the first time they have done that for a civil trial.
The questioning of potential jurors also took place behind closed doors, again out of concern of identities being revealed, leaving it unclear why some were struck from the pool and others were not.
What was done in the open was the process of each side getting to strike jurors off the panel. Each side was allowed to remove six potential jurors and, as is the case with juror processes even done completely in the open, it was not immediately clear why some were excised from the panel.
The case will focus on Fox News’ coverage of the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, and how its news personalities and guests amplified claims that Dominion rigged voting results in Joe Biden’s favor.
The litigation also has the potential to impact the responsibilities of the news media in covering politics, particularly in an age of misinformation, conspiracy theories and wild allegations.
Attorneys are likely to begin their opening statements in late morning or early afternoon. That process also could take a while, as opposing sides are expected to lob a number of objections. The arguments also are expected to be heavy in visuals, with screens installed around the courtroom.
Among those in the courtroom on Tuesday were author Michael Wolff, as well as Fox News MediaBuzz host Howard Kurtz.
Davis is allowing reporters to have laptops in the courtroom, but they cannot use WiFi to transmit stories or messages. He cautioned, though, that reporters should try to keep the down the clatter of their typing. “Just be careful. It may be sending the wrong message to the jury as you type,” he said.
The judge did draw some laughs as he told the jurors that they could bring liquid beverages into the courtroom during the proceedings. “Non-alcoholic,” he said.
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