Twelve jurors confirmed for Trump hush money trial

18 April 2024, 22:04

Trump Hush Money
Trump Hush Money. Picture: PA

Lawyers questioned hundreds of potential jurors ahead of the first-ever criminal case against a former US president.

A jury of 12 people has been seated in former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial in New York.

Lawyers now need to select six alternates to round out the panel that will decide the first-ever criminal case against a former US president.

The jury includes a sales professional, a software engineer, an English teacher and multiple lawyers.

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The jury of 12 people has been selected in the trial of US president Donald Trump (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)

The rapid progress propelled the case closer to opening statements and weeks of testimony in a case charging the Republican ex-president with falsifying business records to suppress stories about his sex life in the final days of the 2016 election.

Earlier in the day, two jurors were dismissed by Judge Juan Merchan.

One was excused after expressing doubt about her ability to be fair and impartial. The other was dismissed after prosecutors raised questions about the accuracy of his answers during the selection process.

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Former President Donald Trump, flanked by attorneys Todd Blanche and Emil Bove (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/AP)

Lawyers have been grilling hundreds of potential jurors for hours, asking questions on everything from their hobbies and their social media posts to their opinion of the presumptive Republican nominee in this year’s closely contested presidential race.

More than half the members of a second group of 96 prospective jurors brought into the courtroom were dismissed on Thursday, most after saying they doubted their ability to be fair and impartial.

The first juror to be excused, an oncology nurse selected on Wednesday, told the court she had become concerned about her ability to be impartial.

Judge Juan Merchan said that the woman, a nurse, “conveyed that after sleeping on it overnight she had concerns about her ability to be fair and impartial in this case”.

And though jurors’ names are being kept confidential, the woman told the judge and the lawyers that she had doubts.

“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.”

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Former President Donald Trump addresses the media following the second day of jury selection at Manhattan criminal court (Michael Santiago/AP)

A second seated juror was dismissed after prosecutors raised concerns that 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 had 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 Mr Trump’s case.

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

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Lawyers are seeking to find 12 more jurors to serve on the panel (Michael M Santiago/AP)

Twelve jurors and six alternates must be seated to hear the trial. Mr Merchan said on Tuesday that opening statements could begin as soon as Monday.

The setbacks in the selection process emerged during a frenetic morning in which prosecutors also asked for Mr Trump to be held in contempt over a series of social media posts this week, while the judge in the case barred reporters from identifying jurors’ employers after expressing privacy concerns.

The district attorney’s office on Monday sought a 3,000 dollar (£2,400) fine for Mr Trump for three Truth Social posts they said violated a gag order. Since then, though, prosecutors say he’s made seven additional posts that they believe also violate the order.

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

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Former President Donald Trump awaits the start of proceedings on the second day of jury selection at Manhattan criminal court (Michael Santiago/AP)

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

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

The trial centres on a payment that Mr Trump’s lawyer and personal fixer, Mr Cohen, made shortly before the 2016 election to pornography actor Stormy Daniels, to prevent her claims of a sexual encounter with Mr Trump from becoming public in the race’s final days.

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

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Six jurors have been selected in Donald Trump’s criminal case (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/AP)

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

Mr Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. He could get up to four years in prison if convicted, though it is not clear that the judge would opt to put him behind bars.

Mr Trump would almost certainly appeal any conviction.

The hush money case is one of four criminal prosecutions involving Mr Trump as he vies to reclaim the White House, but it is possible that it will be the sole case to reach trial before November’s presidential election.

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

By Press Association

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