Anticipating the Senate impeachment trial this week, the Daily Citizen ran an Associated Press news article on Jan. 17 on page A5 under the headline, "Senators become jurors."
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It spoke of the senators taking an oath "as jurors." This demonstrated a lack of understanding of the Constitution, Senate rules, and the Federalist Papers, which describe the Founding Fathers' intent.
Senators are not "jurors." Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution states, "The trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury." In impeachment trials, the Senate is not the jury, but rather the court itself. This was made very clear by Chief Justice William Rehnquist during the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton, when in sustaining the objection of Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), he admonished the House managers "to refrain from referring to the Senators as jurors," ruling that, "The Senate is not simply a jury. It is a court in this case." In that sense, Senators are like the judge in an ordinary trial, not the jury. The Senators have the sole power to decide every issue as to the scope and application of law, with the chief justice serving as the presiding officer.
Thomas Johnson, Beaver Dam
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