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Two jurors dismissed in secret Trump trial

Two jurors dismissed in secret Trump trial

 


NEW YORK (AP) Two jurors in former President Donald Trump's secret trial were dismissed Thursday, one after expressing doubts about his ability to be fair and impartial and the other because he feared that some of his answers in court may not have been accurate.

The dismissals reduced the number of jurors present for the first-ever criminal trial of a former president to five.

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

The presence of the full jury whenever that happens will be a pivotal moment in the case, paving the way for a trial that will put the former president's legal risk at the heart of the campaign against Democrat Joe Biden and for weeks of testimony about Trump's private affairs. his life before becoming president.

What you need to know about Trump's secret trial:

The jury selection process accelerated Tuesday with the selection of seven jurors.

But on Thursday, Judge Juan Merchan revealed in court that one of the seven, an oncology nurse, had indicated that after sleeping on it all night she was concerned about its ability to be fair and impartial in this case.

And although the names of the jurors remain confidential, the woman expressed her doubts to the judge and lawyers.

Just yesterday, friends, colleagues and family members sent messages to my phone about questioning my identity as a juror, she said. I do not believe, at this point, that I can be fair and impartial and let outside influences not affect my decision-making in the courtroom.

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

The computer scientist was summoned to court to answer questions after prosecutors said they found an article about a person of the same name who was arrested in the 1990s for tearing up political posters relating to the political right in the suburb of Westchester County.

A prosecutor also revealed 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 the Trump case.

Given that the juror was questioned in the judge's box on Thursday, without a microphone and out of reach of reporters, it is unclear whether the man confirmed or denied that either instance was linked to him.

Former President Donald Trump, comments after visiting a bodega, Tuesday April 16, 2024, whose owner was attacked last year in New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

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

The jury selection process is a critical phase of any criminal trial, but particularly so when the defendant is a former president and the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party. Potential jurors have been questioned about their social media posts, personal lives and political views, while lawyers and judges look for biases that would prevent them from being impartial.

Within the court, it is widely recognized that there is no point in trying to find jurors without knowing Trump. A prosecutor said this week that lawyers aren't looking for people who have been living under the rock for eight years.

But Thursday's events laid bare the challenges inherent in selecting a jury for such a landmark and high-profile case. More than half of a group of 96 potential jurors brought into the courtroom were dismissed Thursday, most after saying they doubted their ability to be fair and impartial.

After excluding from the jury the nurse who had already been selected, Merchan ordered reporters in court not to report potential jurors' responses 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 she said was that she was scared and intimidated by the press, all the press and everything that had happened,” Merchan said after rejecting him. swear.

Prosecutors had requested that the employers' requests be removed from the jury questionnaire. Defense attorney Todd Blanche responded that depriving us of information because of what the press does is not the solution.

The district attorneys' office on Monday sought a $3,000 fine from Trump for three posts on Truth Social that they said violated the order. Since then, however, prosecutors say he has posted seven additional messages that they say violate the order.

Several of the posts involved an article referring to former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen as a serial perjurer, and a Wednesday article repeated a Fox News host's claim that liberal activists were lying to be part of the jury, prosecutor Christopher Conroy said.

Trump's lawyer, Emil Bove, said Cohen attacked President Trump in public statements, and Trump was only responding.

Former President Donald Trump speaks to the media after the second day of jury selection, Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York. Trump is accused of falsifying business records to cover up a sex scandal during his 2016 campaign. (Justin Lane/Pool photo via AP)

The judge had already scheduled a hearing next week on the request for sanctions for contempt of Trump's publications.

The lawsuit centers on a $130,000 payment Cohen made shortly before the 2016 election to porn actor Stormy Daniels to prevent her claims about a sexual relationship with Trump from being made public in the final days of the race.

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 relationship with Daniels and his lawyers argue that the payments to Cohen were legitimate legal fees.

Trump faces 34 counts of falsifying business records. If convicted, he could be sentenced to four years in prison, although it is unclear whether the judge would choose to put him behind bars. Trump would almost certainly appeal any conviction.

The hush money case is one of four criminal prosecutions involving Trump as he fights to win back the White House, but it is possible it will be the only case to go to trial before November's presidential election.

Appeals and other legal wrangling have led to delays in cases accusing Trump of conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election and illegally hoarding classified documents.

___

Tucker reported from Washington.

Sources

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