Georgia grand jury foreperson set off a firestorm with her ‘media circus’. But will the comments tarnish the case?

Emily Kohrs (NBC News)
Emily Kohrs (NBC News)

Emily Kohrs raised more than a few eyebrows with a surprise media tour in the wake of her service on Fulton County’s grand jury investigating Donald Trump’s election interference in the state.

Ms Kohrs found herself the subject of surprising criticism this week after she gave a series of interviews to journalists at major media outlets around the country, all regarding her service as foreperson on the grand jury hearing evidence in the case of Mr Trump’s effort to overturn his 2020 defeat in Georgia.

Some of her comments in particular described the grand jury’s deliberations, including whether they found some witnesses who appeared before them to be credible. She also explained the grand jury’s decision not to seek testimony from Mr Trump himself, though she was careful to not address any direct prompts to name witnesses or targets of the probe who were recommended for criminal charges. She did, however, laugh when asked about Mr Trump’s comments that the grand jury “exonerated” him.

Much of the most vocal criticism came from two figures on CNN, Anderson Cooper and legal analyst Elie Honig, who trashed the 30-year-old for her remarks to one of their colleagues just hours after the interview took place.

“This is a horrible idea,” said Mr Honig of her multiple interviews. “And I guarantee you that prosecutors are wincing, watching her go on this.”

Mr Honig went on to accuse Ms Kohrs of not taking the process seriously. Cooper chimed in, adding: “There’s no reason for her to be out talking.”

“No. It’s a prosecutor’s nightmare. Mark my words, Donald Trump’s team is going to make a motion if there’s an indictment to dismiss that indictment based on grand jury impropriety,” Mr Honig concluded.

And the former president was quick to weigh in too, deriding Ms Kohrs’s speaking style as “energetic” and referring to the grand jury as a “Kangaroo Court” (despite it not being a trial).

“This Georgia case is ridiculous, a strictly political continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt of all time. Now you have an extremely energetic young woman, the (get this!) “foreperson” of the Racist D.A.’s Special Grand Jury, going around and doing a Media Tour revealing, incredibly, the Grand Jury’s inner workings & thoughts. This is not JUSTICE, this is an illegal Kangaroo Court,” he insisted.

But in conversations with The Independent on Wednesday, two experts with litigation experience, including criminal prosecution, said that these fears were overblown.

Steve Plafker, a retired deputy district attorney for the county of Los Angeles, said that Ms Kohrs’ remarks would be a “drop in the bucket” compared to the entirety of the public speculation that has taken place around this case, and noted that her remarks did not even occur as a trial was underway. Finding jurors who were unfamiliar with her remarks would merely be part of the jury selection process should that would take place, he asserted.

“In light of the publicity Mr Trump, or any politician for that matter, attracts generally, this woman's statements are a drop in the bucket, actually the ocean,” Mr Plafker explained. “I do not see any chance of prejudice arising from them.”

He added that there was little chance of Mr Honig’s fears of Mr Trump’s attorneys filing successfully for potential charges to be dismissed.

“Even if I am wrong, there is no chance of their leading to a mistrial. Any danger of prejudice resulting from pre-trial publicity is handled at the time of jury selection. Mistrials result from problems arising during trial,” Mr Plafker went on. “If this woman had been exercising good judgment, she would have gone home and kept her mouth shut, but I doubt that anything she said would make a prosecutor's job any more difficult than it already is.”

Norm Eisen, who served as a litigator for the high-powered DC law firm Zuckerman Spaeder LLP – as well as White House special counsel – concurred. The only real danger arising from Ms Kohrs’s comments, he asserted, could come in the form of an opportunity for Mr Trump’s team to file pointless motions as a delay tactic.

“There’s now a media circus around Ms Kohrs’ comments,” Mr Eisen explained. “I think it’d be better for her on the whole to be a little more restrained. Her media tour is a bit of a distraction from the underlying substantive questions of guilt or innocence. Moreover, it creates an opportunity for a prospective efendant known for filing frivolous legal motions to make more.“

But, he added: “Donald Trump may very well attempt to file some kind of a motion about the foreperson’s statements. But legally, they’re not significant.”

“As the judge noted at the hearing, grand jurors do have some secrecy leeway under Georgia law and practice,” he said. “Ms Kohrs has been very openly trying to operate within the parameters that the judge apparently gave on what is and is not allowed, and so far I don’t think she’s exceeded them.”

A decision by Fulton County’s district attorney, Fani Willis, is expected imminently in the case against Mr Trump and his legal team. A partial release of the grand jury’s final report indicated that at least some of the recommended indictments stem from instances in which the grand jury’s members believed that one or more witnesses were untruthful in their testimony; Donald Trump did not testify.