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All 12 jurors seated in Trump hush-money trial after two dismissals

In World
April 19, 2024

A full jury of 12 jurors has been seated in the criminal case against Donald Trump, bringing the first criminal trial of a former president a significant step closer to beginning.

At least one of six alternate jurors had been selected before court concluded on Thursday.

The development came after two jurors were removed from the jury, underscoring the difficulty of choosing a jury in one of the most high-stakes cases in US history.

The dismissal of the two jurors means that only five jurors remain seated in the case, down from seven at the start of Thursday’s session. Those selected so far are an information technology worker, an English teacher, an oncology nurse, a sales professional, a software engineer and two lawyers. There will eventually be 12 jurors and six alternates.

“We started the day with seven, and unfortunately we’re down to five,” Juan Merchan, the judge, said. Two new jurors were seated Thursday afternoon to replace the two who had left.

Trump arrived at the Manhattan criminal court on Thursday for the third day of his hush-money trial and a continuation of the tricky process of jury selection. Trump, the first former US president to face criminal trial, sat expressionless throughout the session on Thursday morning, and appeared attentive.

The identities of the jurors who will judge Trump will remain anonymous in the case out of security concerns.

A woman known only as “Juror Two” appeared briefly before Merchan on Thursday to say that she no longer believed she could be unbiased in the case. Since being selected on Tuesday, she had received a flurry of text messages from friends and family that led her to believe she had been identified. The judge excused her.

Her dismissal came as reporters have been hanging on every detail they can glean about the 12 jurors who will determine Trump’s criminal fate. Fox News’s Jesse Watters also did a segment on Tuesday that directly attacked the jurors, including Juror Two. “I’m not so sure about Juror No 2,” Watters said on his show on Tuesday. Trump also reposted a quote from Watters on Truth Social suggesting liberal activists were trying to get on the jury.

The dismissal prompted Merchan to rebuke reporters covering the case for revealing too much about the physical descriptions of jurors. Earlier this week he admonished Trump against intimidating jurors.

“I would recommend the press simply apply common sense and refrain from anything that has to do, for example, with physical descriptions. It’s just not necessary, it serves no purpose.” He went on to prohibit the press from reporting on the occupations of jurors.

A second juror, known as “Juror Four”, was excused after prosecutors expressed concerns that he may not have been truthful on his jury questionnaire about his criminal history.

Prosecutors told Merchan that in researching the juror, they had discovered that someone with the same name was arrested decades ago for tearing down posters supportive of the political right. They also said it appeared his wife had been involved in an anti-corruption probe with the district attorney.

The juror appeared in court on Thursday for two lengthy conversations with Merchan and lawyers for both sides. Merchan sealed the conversation, saying it was personal, and then excused the juror.

Prosecutors also accused Trump of violating a gag order seven additional times. They have already filed a previous request to sanction him for breaking the order and a hearing on the issue is scheduled for next week.

Examples included posts with a link to a New York Post article calling Michael Cohen a “serial perjurer”. Trump also reposted a statement from Fox’s Watters saying that liberal activists were trying to get on to the jury. Juan Merchan, the judge, had previously warned Trump about trying to intimidate jurors.

“It’s ridiculous and it has to stop,” Christopher Conroy, a prosecutor, said.

Emil Bove, a lawyer for Trump, said Trump’s statements were political. He also questioned whether reposting statements from someone else violated the gag order.

Just as he did earlier this week, Trump sat just feet away from potential jurors as they were critical of his politics and his presidency. “He’s just very selfish and self-serving. I don’t appreciate that in any public servant,” said one potential juror. Trump largely didn’t react to these assessments, though at times he crossed his arms as he sat at the defense table.

“Sometimes the way he may carry himself in public leaves something to be desired. At the same time, I can relate to being a bit unfiltered,” said another potential juror. “But I really don’t think this case is about my personal politics. This case is ultimately about the evidence and facts presented so that’s going to determine how I view the defendant.”

But while many of the potential jurors were critical of Trump’s politics, they insisted that they could keep an open mind during the trial and potentially return a not-guilty verdict.

One potential juror who works in construction said he could connect with Trump as an entrepreneur. “He was our president. Pretty amazing. He was a businessman in New York. He forged his way. He kind of made history … I’m impressed with that,” the man said.

Related: Surreal scenes as jurors in New York trial tell Trump what they really think

Trump’s criminal hush-money trial: what to know

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records as part of the alleged effort to keep the scandalous stories – which he says are not true – from emerging during his eventually successful effort to win the White House in 2016.

Trump also faces other trials involving his actions on January 6, attempts to subvert the 2020 election in Georgia and charges related to his keeping of classified documents at his resort in Florida, Mar-a-Lago, after he had left office. However, those cases have been hit by multiple delays as Trump’s legal team pursues a strategy of slowing down their march to a courtroom until after the November election.

Despite these legal travails, Trump dominated the Republican nomination race for 2024 and has knocked out any serious rival. He is also running a close race with Joe Biden, often leading in head-to-head polls and performing strongly in the crucial battleground states that he needs to win the US presidency for a second time.

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