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12 jurors in Trump Hush Money trial to decide fate of former president

12 jurors in Trump Hush Money trial to decide fate of former president


Follow our live coverage of Trump's criminal trial in Manhattan.

On Thursday at 4:34 p.m., a jury of 12 citizens was selected to determine the fate of a former president indicted for the first time in American history, a moment that could shape the country's political and legal landscape for generations to come.

The dozen New Yorkers will sit in judgment on Donald J. Trump, the 45th president turned criminal defendant, accused of falsifying records to cover up a sex scandal. If jurors convict Mr. Trump, he faces up to four years in prison, even as he seeks to win back the White House as the presumptive Republican nominee.

We have our jury, Judge Juan M. Merchan proclaimed as the 12th juror was added.

He then swore an oath to the seven men and five women to deliver a fair and impartial verdict, which they accepted with sober expressions as Mr. Trump looked on from the defense table. Jurors could hear closing arguments as early as Monday.

The selection of the 12 capped a seesaw day in which the judge first excused two people who were seated earlier in the week, then replaced them hours later with two new faces and more.

The moment was both routine and never before seen, an act performed daily in courthouses across the country, but never for a former president, a symbol and source of political division nationally.

Mr. Trump, under the Constitution, is entitled to a fair trial before a jury of his peers. And yet he is without peer, a singular force in American politics who was twice impeached and brought democracy to the brink when he refused to accept his electoral defeat.

Today, as he bends the political world to his will, Mr. Trump is testing the limits of the American justice system, attacking the integrity of the jury and the judge. His attacks have emboldened his base and may well resonate more widely in the campaign trial.

But it will be the 12 men and women on Mr. Trump's hometown jury who will first decide his fate, before millions of others do so at the ballot box.

The composition of the jury and the safety of its members will be at the heart of this historic case. Mr. Trump says he cannot get a fair trial in one of the most Democratic counties in the country, a place where he is deeply unpopular, although some of the jurors who ultimately landed on the panel say so. congratulated.

One man said during the selection that he thought the former president had done good for the country, adding that it went both ways. Another juror, possibly a first for the country, said he had no opinion on Mr. Trump.

The final 12 were a collection of Manhattanites as eclectic as the city itself. They are black, Asian, white, male, female, middle-aged and young, including one woman who is working her first job out of college. They work in the fields of finance, education, health and law. And they live in, among other places, Harlem, Chelsea, the Upper East Side and Murray Hill.

A replacement was also chosen before the court adjourned. The judge plans to conclude jury selection Friday, when attorneys will select the remaining five alternates.

The long day got off to an inauspicious start when Judge Merchan excused the two jurors, including a woman who had developed concerns about her identity being revealed. That fear, she added, could compromise her fairness and decision-making in the courtroom, prompting the judge to excuse her.

Precisely why the judge dismissed the other juror was unclear, but prosecutors had raised concerns about the credibility of the answers he gave to questions about himself. Asked outside the courthouse if he thought he should have been fired, the man, who declined to give his name, said: No.

The layoffs highlighted the intense pressure of being on this particular panel. Jurors are risking their safety and privacy to try a former commander in chief who has become their fellow citizen, a heavy responsibility that could unsettle even the most seasoned New Yorkers.

During jury selection, potential members are systematically excused by the dozens. And once a trial officially begins, it's not uncommon to lose a juror for reasons such as illness or violating a judge's order not to read the proceedings. But losing two in one day, before closing arguments even began, was unusual, one of many small ways this trial will stand out.

The ousters appeared to irritate the judge, who worked to keep the trial on schedule. He said he thought the woman who refused to sit would have been a very good juror.

Although the judge kept the potential jurors' names confidential, they disclosed their employers and other identifying information in open court. But Judge Merchan asked journalists to no longer disclose the current or past employers of potential jurors, a decision that some media law experts have questioned.

In a cold courtroom on Thursday, as lawyers on both sides scrutinized a new round of potential jurors, Mr. Trump looked intently at the jury box and prodded his lawyers, prompting one of them, Todd Blanche, shaking his head in response.

Already this week, the judge chastised Mr. Trump for his comments about jurors, warning him not to intimidate anyone in the courtroom.

And the Manhattan district attorney's office, which accused Mr. Trump of falsifying records to conceal a secret deal with a porn star, renewed a request on Thursday that Judge Merchan hold Mr. Trump in contempt in court after he recently reposted attacks on potential jurors on social media.

Prosecutors argued that Mr. Trump violated the silence order in the case 10 times, and the judge said he would consider the request next week, when he would evaluate related efforts to penalize the former president for attacking witnesses in this case.

Mr. Trump is constantly testing the limits of silence. His political allies, who are not covered by the order, regularly attack the judge and his family. And now they are attacking the impartiality of the jury.

In early March, Judge Merchan issued an order prohibiting the public release of jurors' names, while allowing legal teams and defendants to know their identities.

But before the trial, Mr. Trump's lawyers asked that potential jurors not be told that the jury would be anonymous unless they expressed concerns. Judge Merchan said he would do everything possible not to unnecessarily alert jurors to this secrecy, simply telling them that they would be identified in court by a number.

After both jurors were excused Thursday, selection continued as lawyers on both sides reviewed potential replacements in a courtroom so drafty that even the former president was forced to admit it, asking reporters: “Cold enough for you?”

Some potential jurors withdrew, recognizing that they might not be fair to Mr. Trump.

A potential juror who was dismissed said he was from Italy and noted that Italian media had pushed comparisons between Mr. Trump and Silvio Berlusconi, the country's former prime minister, a media mogul involved in sex scandals.

It would be a bit difficult for me to maintain my impartiality and fairness, he said.

The potential jurors were all asked about their politics, media diet and opinions of Mr. Trump. Lawyers then had to review them for any signs of bias, including old social media posts about the former president.

It seemed unlikely that a prospective juror, who had a long career in law enforcement, would have posted problematic posts. He revealed that he only owned a flip phone.

That’s why I don’t watch any podcasts,” he said, drawing laughter from the courtroom on an otherwise tense day.

The prosecution used one of its challenges to oust this juror, who, as an aspiring hockey player, had also complimented Mr. Trump at the ice rink his company operated in Central Park. He used another to fire a man who said he was impressed by the path set by the former president.

The defense ousted several additional potential jurors, including a woman who spent the night at the home of one of Mr. Trump's lawyers. Judge Merchan had refused to dismiss her himself at the request of this lawyer, Susan Necheles, even though Ms. Necheles had said that the woman's presence was embarrassing.

The judge dismissed a woman who attacked Mr. Trump on social media as a racist and sexist narcissist. When she reread the messages in court Thursday, the potential juror added: Oops. This looks bad. She later apologized for the tone of her messages.

A woman who expressed skepticism of Mr. Trump served on the jury. She said she had no strong opinions about Mr. Trump, but added: “I don’t like his personality. How he presents himself in public.

She then added: “I don't like some of my colleagues, but I don't try to sabotage their work, which made the jury laugh.

Nate Schweber, Maggie Haberman, Wesley Parnell and Matthew Haag contributed reporting.




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