UNITED STATES NEWS

Although 12 jurors were picked for Donald Trump’s hush money trial, selection of alternates is ongoing

Apr 18, 2024, 5:00 PM

Donald Trump's hush money trial: 12 jurors selected...

Former President Donald Trump holds up news clippings as he speaks following his trial at Manhattan criminal court in New York on Thursday, April 18, 2024. (Timothy A. Clary/Pool Photo via AP)

(Timothy A. Clary/Pool Photo via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — A jury of 12 people was seated Thursday in former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial, propelling the proceedings closer to opening statements and the start of weeks of dramatic testimony.

The court quickly turned to selecting alternate jurors.

The jury includes a sales professional, a software engineer, a security engineer, an English teacher, a speech therapist, multiple lawyers, an investment banker and a retired wealth manager.

What to expect from Donald Trump’s hush money trial

The first-ever trial of a former American president will unfold in the middle of this year’s race for the White House, ensuring that the legal troubles of the presumptive Republican nominee will be a dominant issue in the contest against Democratic incumbent Joe Biden.

The trial will almost certainly feature unflattering testimony about the Trump’s personal life before he became president, with allegations that he falsifying business records to suppress stories in the final days of the 2016 election about his sexual relationships.

The jury selection process appeared wobbly earlier in the day when two jurors were dismissed, one after expressing doubt about her ability to be fair following disclosure of details about her identity and the other over concerns that some of his answers in court may have been inaccurate.

But lawyers who began the day with only five jurors settled on the remaining seven for the panel in quick succession, along with one alternate. Judge Juan Merchan has said his goal is to have six alternates.

What else to know about the history-making presidential trial

In other developments, prosecutors asked for Trump to be held in contempt over a series of social media posts this week, and the judge barred reporters from identifying jurors’ employers after expressing privacy concerns.

The trial centers on a $130,000 payment that Cohen made shortly before the 2016 election to porn actor Stormy Daniels to prevent her claims of a sexual encounter with Trump from becoming public in the race’s final days.

Prosecutors say Trump obscured the true nature of the payments in internal records when his company reimbursed Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2018 and is expected to be a star witness for the prosecution.

Trump has denied having a sexual encounter with Daniels, and his lawyers argue that the payments to Cohen were legitimate legal expenses.

How many felony counts are in Donald Trump’s hush money trial?

Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. He could get up to four years in prison if convicted, though it’s not clear that the judge would opt to put him behind bars. Trump would almost certainly appeal any conviction.

Appeals and legal wrangling have caused delays in the other three cases charging Trump with plotting to overturn the 2020 election results and with illegally hoarding classified documents.

The jury selection process picked up momentum Tuesday with the selection of seven jurors. But on Thursday, Merchan revealed in court that one of the seven, a cancer nurse, had “conveyed that after sleeping on it overnight she had concerns about her ability to be fair and impartial in this case.”

Some jurors already stepped back due to bias concerns

And though jurors’ names are being kept confidential, the woman told the judge and the lawyers that she had doubts after she said aspects of her identity had been made public.

“Yesterday alone I had friends, colleagues and family push things to my phone regarding questioning my identity as a juror,” she said. “I don’t believe at this point that I can be fair and unbiased and let the outside influences not affect my decision making in the courtroom.”

A second seated juror was dismissed after prosecutors raised concerns that he may not have been honest in answering a jury selection question by saying that he had never been accused or convicted of a crime.

The IT professional was summoned to court to answer questions after prosecutors said they found an article about a person with the same name who had been arrested in the 1990s for tearing down political posters pertaining to the political right in suburban Westchester County.

A prosecutor also disclosed that a relative of the man may have been involved in a deferred prosecution agreement in the 1990s with the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which is prosecuting Trump’s case.

Because the juror was questioned Thursday at the judge’s bench, off-microphone and out of earshot of reporters, it was not known whether the man confirmed or denied either instance was connected to him.

Why picking jurors for Donald Trump’s hush money trial has been complicated

The process of picking a jury is a critical phase of any criminal trial but especially so when the defendant is a former president and the presumptive Republican nominee. Prospective jurors have been grilled on their social media posts, personal lives and political views as the lawyers and judge search for biases that would prevent them from being impartial.

Inside the court, there’s broad acknowledgment of the futility in trying to find jurors without knowledge of Trump. A prosecutor this week said that lawyers were not looking for people who had been “living under a rock for the past eight years.”

After dismissing from the jury the nurse who had already been selected, Merchan ordered journalists in court not to report prospective jurors’ answers to questions about their current and former employers.

“We just lost, probably, what probably would have been a very good juror for this case, and the first thing that she said was she was afraid and intimidated by the press, all the press, and everything that had happened,” Merchan said after dismissing the juror.

Questionnaire concerns also at play

Prosecutors had asked that the employer inquiries be axed from the jury questionnaire. Defense lawyer Todd Blanche responded that “depriving us of the information because of what the press is doing isn’t the answer.”

The district attorney’s office on Monday sought a $3,000 fine for Trump for three Truth Social posts they said violated the order. Since then, prosecutors said he made seven additional posts that they believe violate the order.

Several of the posts involved an article that referred to former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen as a “serial perjurer,” and one from Wednesday repeated a claim by a Fox News host that liberal activists were lying to get on the jury, said prosecutor Christopher Conroy.

Trump lawyer Emil Bove said Cohen “has been attacking President Trump in public statements,” and Trump was just replying.

The judge had already scheduled a hearing for next week on the prosecution’s request for contempt sanctions over Trump’s posts.

___

Tucker reported from Washington.

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Although 12 jurors were picked for Donald Trump’s hush money trial, selection of alternates is ongoing