6 Jurors Chosen on 2nd Day of Trump Trial Selection

Former President Donald Trump returns to the courtroom after a break in the second day of jury selection at Manhattan criminal court, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (Michael M. Santiago/Pool Photo via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — Six people were selected and many more were dismissed Tuesday from Donald Trump’s business record case as lawyers worked for a second day to find a panel of New Yorkers willing to set their political beliefs aside, clear their personal calendars and sit in a historic judgment of a former U.S. president.

Possible jurors were quizzed for hours about their views on Trump and other issues, and eight were excused after saying they could not be impartial or because they had other commitments. More than half of the 96 people brought in on Monday were excused, too. Several people said they believed they could decide the case fairly, no matter their feelings about Trump or his policies as president.

The methodical process highlights the unprecedented challenge of finding people who can fairly judge the polarizing defendant, who has cast himself as the victim of political persecution as he vies to reclaim the White House.

The Hill reported information on the first approved jurors. The first juror is an Irish immigrant who lives in West Harlem, who says that he gets his news from both conservative and liberal sources. Second is a woman who works as an oncology nurse, followed by a middle-aged Asian man, a middle-aged Puerto Rican man, a young black woman from Harlem, and another woman about whom little information was released.

The trial, which began Monday, puts Trump’s legal problems at the center of his closely contested race against President Joe Biden. It’s the first of Trump’s four criminal cases to go to trial, and it may be the only one to reach a verdict before voters decide in November whether to elect the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.

Trump looked on in the courtroom as his lawyers challenged one person for a social media post she made after his 2020 election loss. Trump at one point spoke loudly and gestured while the judge was questioning the would-be juror, causing the judge to admonish the former president.

“I don’t know what he was uttering, but it was audible and he was gesturing. And he was speaking in the direction of the juror,” Judge Juan Merchan said. “I won’t tolerate that. I will not tolerate any jurors being intimidated in this courtroom.”

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass took Trump’s notoriety head-on, telling would-be jurors that attorneys were not looking for people who had been “living under a rock for the past eight years.” They just needed to keep an open mind.

“This case has nothing to do with your personal politics … it’s not a referendum on the Trump presidency or a popularity contest or who you’re going to vote for in November. We don’t care. This case is about whether this man broke the law,” he said.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records as part of an alleged effort to suppress harmful information about him during the 2016 presidential race.

Merchan believes that opening statements in the trial might begin as early as Monday, according to The Hill.

Before entering the courtroom, Trump stopped briefly to address a TV camera in the hallway, repeating his contention that the judge is biased against him and the case is politically motivated.

“This is a trial that should have never been brought,” Trump said.

With the trial expected to last for six weeks or more, multiple jury pool members brought up plans they have for Memorial Day and beyond. One parent was excused Monday because of a child’s wedding in late June. Another person was dismissed Tuesday because of a planned trip.

One man was excused after saying he feared his ability to be impartial could be compromised by “unconscious bias” from growing up in Texas and working in finance with people who “intellectually tend to slant Republican.”

“I’m not sure that I can say beyond a reasonable doubt that I can be fair,” another potential juror told the judge. “I can try. But I’m not 100% sure I can be fair.” She was also dismissed.

In court papers filed Tuesday, prosecutors urged the judge to fine Trump $3,000 over social media posts they say violated a gag order limiting what he can say publicly about witnesses.

Prosecutors wrote that the judge should admonish Trump to comply with the gag order and warn him that further violations could be punished not only with additional fines but also jail time.

If convicted of falsifying business records, Trump faces up to four years in prison, though there’s no guarantee he will get time behind bars.

Trump’s cases involving allegations of election interference and hoarding classified documents could lead to lengthy prison sentences, but those cases are tied up with appeals or other issues that make it increasingly unlikely they will be decided before the election.

And if Trump wins in November, he could presumably order a new attorney general to dismiss his federal cases.

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