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Trump and co-defendants appeal ruling keeping Fani Willis on Georgia election case

Lawyers for the former president and eight of his co-defendants argue prosecutor’s removal from case is critical for judicial system

Ariana Baio
Friday 29 March 2024 21:11 GMT
Fani Willis accuses prosecution of ‘lying’ as she takes stand

Donald Trump and eight of his co-defendants in the Georgia election interference case have appealed a judge’s decision to keep Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis on the case.

In a filing submitted to the Georgia Court of Appeals on Friday afternoon, attorneys for the former president and his co-defendants claimed Ms Willis should not be allowed to preside over the case and allowing her to do so would result in errors in each trial and public mistrust in the judicial system.

Earlier this month, Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee decided Ms Willis and her office could continue pursuing the case against Mr Trump and his co-defendants after days of contentious hearings, so long as her former partner and the prosecutor on the case, Nathan Wade, resigned.

Mr Wade stepped down shortly after the ruling, allowing the case to move forward.

In deciding Ms Willis could remain on the case, Judge McAfee also issued a certification of immediate review to allow the defendants to appeal before they go to trial later this year.

Among their arguments, defence attorneys claim that “Nothing in the law—anywhere—says that the remedy for an appearance of impropriety is the disqualification of one apparently conflicted lawyer but not another.”

It is the latest effort by the defendants to get Ms Willis removed from the case accusing them of violating state racketeering laws among a slew of other criminal charges.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis holds a press conference after the indictment of Donald Trump (REUTERS)

Earlier this year, defence attorneys raised complaints against Ms Willis for having a romantic relationship with Mr Wade, who she employed as a special prosecutor in the case. It resulted in a highly-publicised hearing that sought to embarrass Ms Willis and Mr Wade as well as remove both from prosecuting the case.

Though no state laws had been violated, the ethical implications of Ms Willis’s and Mr Wade’s romantic relationship led to concerns from Judge McAfee, which he outlined in his ruling.

“This finding is by no means an indication that the Court condones this tremendous lapse in judgment or the unprofessional manner of the District Attorney’s testimony during the evidentiary hearing,” Judge McAfee wrote.

Defence attorneys noted that Judge McAfee’s decision lacked appellate guidance in their argument to the Georgia appeals court.

They also suggested that Ms Willis was not “impartial” or “disinterested” as, what they claim, most prosecutors should be to maintain integrity.

Rudy Giuliani, Mark Meadows, Jeffery Clark, Robert Cheeley, Michael Roman, David Shafer, Harrison Floyd and Cathy Latham joined Mr Trump’s appeal.

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