2 Seated Jurors Dismissed by Judge From Trump’s NY Trial

Former President Donald Trump awaits the start of proceedings during jury selection at Manhattan criminal court, Thursday, April 18, 2024 in New York. (Jeenah Moon/Pool Photo via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — Jury selection in Donald Trump’s criminal business records case encountered new setbacks Thursday as two previously sworn-in jurors were excused — one who was afraid after friends and family found out she was serving, and the other over concerns that he may not have been truthful about whether he had ever been accused or convicted of a crime.

Seven jurors were sworn in on Tuesday, but with the excusal of two of them, lawyers now need to pick 13 others to serve on the panel that will decide the first-ever criminal case against a former U.S. president.

Prosecutors on Thursday also asked Judge Juan M. Merchan to sanction Trump over seven more social media posts they say violate a gag order that bars Trump from attacking witnesses.

The prosecution on Monday sought a $3,000 fine against Trump over three Truth Social posts. Prosecutors told Merchan on Thursday that they wanted the former president held in contempt and sanctioned for seven more posts they said violated his gag order.

Questioning of a second wave of prospective jurors began mid-morning. Over half of the group of 96 people was excused after saying they couldn’t serve.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records as part of an alleged scheme to supress harmful information during the 2016 presidential election cycle.

The case is the first of Trump’s four indictments to reach trial.

Merchan said that the juror dismissed because there were concerns that he had lied about his past with law enforcement had “expressed annoyance about how much information about him had been out in the public.”

Prosecutors found an article from the 1990s about a man with the same name as the juror being arrested for tearing down political advertisements in suburban Westchester County. The posters were on the political right, Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass said.

Merhcan had instructed the man to come to court at 9:15 a.m. Thursday to answer questions and verify whether the people involved were him or his relative.

The judge noted the juror’s apparent “reluctance to come in” and asked both sides if they’d consent to having him removed without further inquiry. Trump lawyer Todd Blanche declined, saying he wanted to first hear what the man had to say.

Under questioning earlier this week, the man had said he hadn’t been convicted of a crime.

The woman who was dismissed additionally said that she presently felt unable to be impartial.

Instead of disclosing where they work, as other potential jurors had done earlier this week, Thursday’s group gave more generic answers.

The shift in demeanor came after Judge Juan M. Merchan scolded the press for reporting identifiable details about the potential jurors, ordering them not to report on questions about their current and former employers and noting the answers would be redacted from court transcripts.

“There’s a reason that this is an anonymous jury,” Merchan had said. “It kind of defeats the purpose of that when so much information is put out there that it is very easy for anyone to identify who the jurors are.”

It wasn’t clear if they were directly instructed to avoid giving specifics about their employers.

Some 48 people indicated Thursday morning that they could not serve fairly and impartially. An additional nine said they couldn’t serve for some other reason, which they were not asked to state.

Merchan had previously stated that based on the trajectory of the selection, opening arguments could begin as early as Monday. Trump, for his part, complained that the proceedings were moving too quickly.

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