Jurors are likely to hold U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez’s potential absence from the courtroom against him in his trial for bribery, Dean Daniel Filler said in an interview with WHYY that aired on Sept. 19.
Menendez, whose trial began Sept. 6 in Newark, N.J., is expected to travel to Washington, D.C. next week to cast a critical vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act in the U.S. Senate. If he does so, the Democratic senator could harm his prospects in the criminal trial, Filler said.
"It's never a good sign if the defendant is absent, because jurors will fill in the blanks with all kinds of ideas, almost all of which are negative in some way," Filler said, noting that an absence is especially glaring when a defendant has already been attending the trial.
With Menendez’s trial scheduled to continue next week, Filler said, impact of the senator’s potential absence on jurors’ thinking is hard to predict.
"It's not like the jurors think the defendant is off saving lives when they're not at trial," Filler said. "Jurors think that a trial is the most important thing happening in any defendant's life, and a juror's going to wonder why a defendant isn't present."
Filler is a nationally recognized legal scholar with deep expertise in capital punishment, juvenile justice and sex crimes. Before entering the legal academy, he practiced at Debevoise & Plimpton and served as a public defender with the Bronx Defenders and the Defender Association of Philadelphia.