MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Former Memphis City Schools board member Tomeka Hart revealed Wednesday she was the jury foreperson in the Roger Stone trial.
Hart now lives in Washington, D.C. and works for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She’s well known to Memphians for her years of service on the board for Memphis City Schools and later the board for Shelby County Schools when MCS surrendered its charter. Hart, a Democrat, also ran unsuccessfully in 2012 to unseat Congressman Steve Cohen.
Stone, a Trump ally, was convicted last year of lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstructing an investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
Hart said she broke her silence to stand up for four prosecutors who abruptly resigned from the case when the attorney general demanded Stone’s recommended sentenced be reduced.
She said in part, “It pains me to see the D.O.J. now interfere with the hard work of the prosecutors. They acted with the utmost intelligence, integrity and respect for our system of justice.”
President Donald Trump tweeted about Hart Thursday morning, saying she has “significant bias” after revealing her role in the trial and prompting scrutiny over her social media activity. Critics of Hart point to social media comments disparaging Trump and Republicans, with some made as Stone’s trial was ongoing.
“Trump can be justly criticized for a lot of things but here he kind of has a point,” said Michael Nelson, WMC Action News 5 political analyst, “The fact that she was not only foreperson of the jury but on the jury itself when she was such an outspoken critic.”
But Nelson said Stone’s defense team should’ve known Hart’s political leanings. The Washington Post reported she disclosed her Democratic bid for a seat in Congress during jury selection.
“Frankly, Stone’s defense lawyers didn’t do their jobs,” Nelson said, “It wouldn’t be hard to find out she’s on Twitter the whole time criticizing the President.”
Former federal prosecutor and current University of Memphis law professor Steve Mulroy said jurors are thoroughly screened for bias by attorneys, and those flagged for fear of not being fair would not be empaneled.
“It’s not improper bias for a juror to have a political opinion. We all have political opinions. The jurors are sworn to be impartial and decide based on the evidence and the law,” said Mulroy, “It would be defense counsel responsibility during the Voir Dire process to weed out any people who were so biased against Trump that they could not be impartial, and it would be up to the judge to make that decision.”
WMC Action News 5 did reach out to Hart Wednesday. She confirmed the Facebook post but declined an interview.
Mid-morning Thursday, President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani called Hart by name in a tweet, saying her tweets should be investigated.
Roger Stone’s attorneys told CNBC they were reviewing the “new information.”
Stone is scheduled to be sentenced next Thursday, February 20.