An Unusual Jury Excursion Threatens Peter Navarro’s Trial

The trial of former Donald Trump adviser Peter Navarro for defying a subpoena from the Jan. 6 select committee is facing potential complications due to an unconventional jury excursion that occurred just before the verdict was delivered. U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta held a hearing to gather testimony from a courthouse employee who escorted the jury outside for a brief fresh-air break during deliberations. Navarro’s attorneys argue that during this break, the jurors may have been exposed to protesters, some of whom carried signs related to Jan. 6 defendants and one of whom referenced Navarro himself.

According to the courthouse employee named Rosa Roldan Torres, all 12 jurors were accompanied outside to a plaza adjacent to the courthouse, where they spent around 10 to 15 minutes chatting among themselves. Torres stated that the jurors were not approached by anyone during this time. Upon their return to the jury room, the jurors reached a verdict within approximately 30 minutes, concluding a four-hour deliberation.

Judge Mehta’s task is now to determine whether the jurors saw any protesters during their break and whether it could have had a meaningful influence on their decision. Navarro was convicted following a trial that included testimony from three former employees of the Jan. 6 select committee, who stated that Navarro had refused to comply with their subpoena. The House held Navarro in contempt of Congress in April 2022, and the Justice Department later charged him with two counts of contempt.

Navarro’s trial was preceded by a two-year debate over whether Trump had asserted executive privilege to protect Navarro from complying with the Jan. 6 committee. Ultimately, Judge Mehta ruled that Navarro failed to demonstrate Trump’s assertion of privilege and could not use it as a defense.

Navarro expressed concern regarding the prosecutors’ decision to link his case to the Jan. 6 violence, believing that it could have influenced the jury’s interpretation of any signs displayed by protesters. He is seeking video or photographic evidence from individuals outside the courthouse who may have captured the jury’s excursion. Navarro’s lawyers also questioned the courthouse protocol for jurors and whether they are allowed to go outside for breaks during deliberation.

During the hearing, Navarro’s attorneys cast doubt on Torres’ testimony, suggesting that not all 12 jurors exited the building together and that the presence of protesters may have had a greater impact on the jury’s decision than reported. Judge Mehta indicated that security camera footage from the courthouse would be provided to the lawyers to further investigate the situation.

Prosecutors raised questions about why Navarro’s defense team had not raised concerns about the jury’s outdoor break earlier in the trial. Had they done so, the judge could have investigated whether the jurors were influenced by what they saw outside the courthouse.