Trump trial lawyers clash over jury selection as judge warns Trump over comments

Photo of author


Jury selection in the former president. The historic criminal trial of Donald Trump In New York it continues for a second day Tuesday, with prosecutors and defense attorneys clashing over who should be potential jurors.

A dispute over a juror’s Facebook posts showing celebrations after Trump lost the 2020 election prompted audible comments from the former president. That earned him a reprimand from Judge Juan Merchan, who told Trump’s lawyer, Todd Blanche, to speak to his client.

“Mr. Blanche, your client was saying something out loud. He was audible, gesturing and speaking in the direction of the jury. I will not tolerate that,” Merchan said. “I will not allow any juror to be intimidated in this courtroom. I want to make that very clear.”

Blanche had asked the judge to dismiss the jury over the video posts, which showed people cheering on the streets of New York. The woman told the court that she wanted to capture a “celebration New York City moment,” comparing the cheers to the nightly celebrations of healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. She insisted that she could remain impartial during the trial.

The judge did not dismiss it and said he gave reasonable explanations for both charges. But he did excuse another man who had posted about Trump’s “illegal travel ban,” writing “get him out and lock him up.”

Jury selection day 2

Former President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom as he waits for the start of the second day of his criminal trial in Manhattan Criminal Court on April 16, 2024.

JUSTIN LANE/Getty Images

Those disputes came after prosecutors and defense attorneys had their first chance to directly question potential jurors who made it through a first round of screening. Earlier, Joshua Steinglass, a member of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office, told jurors that the case “has nothing to do with your politics.”

“We’re not suggesting that it’s necessary to have lived under a rock for the last eight years or the last 30 years,” he said. “We don’t expect that you haven’t heard about this or that you haven’t discussed this case with friends. What we do need is for you to keep an open mind.”

The first group of potential jurors were sworn in Monday after pretrial arguments about the evidence and rules of procedure. About two-thirds of the group of 96 New Yorkers were quickly dismissed, and most of them said they would not be able to be fair and impartial at trial. Others were excused for various other reasons. The slow process of identifying suitable jurors is likely to last at least a week.

More jurors were sent home as Tuesday’s session began. One woman was fired with flu-like symptoms. Several more said they couldn’t be fair or impartial, including a man who moved to Manhattan from Texas and said he got his news from Fox News and Barstool Sports, among other sources. He said that “it’s going to be difficult for me to be impartial” since many of his family and friends were Republicans. Merchan thanked him for his candor and apologized.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys can also briefly discuss, without the jury present, what topics the state can question Trump about if he decides to testify in his own defense later in the trial.

The case of “hush money”

Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, is charged with 34 state felonies of falsifying business records related to a payment of “silent money” that his lawyer made to adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and claimed that the accusation is part of a plot by Democrats aimed at preventing him from taking back the White House. The case is the first of four criminal cases against Trump to go to trial.

Entering the courtroom Tuesday, Trump called the trial a “sham” and said the charges should have been dismissed.

“This is a trial that should never happen. It should have been thrown out a long time ago,” he told reporters.

At several points during Monday morning’s pretrial arguments, Trump appeared to fall asleep at the defense table, his chin briefly falling toward his chest. In one case, his lawyer woke him up. On Tuesday he seemed to fall asleep again at various times.

The trial is expected to last six to eight weeks and take place every weekday except Wednesday, with some shorter days for the Passover holiday. The schedule severely limits Trump’s ability to undertake the election campaign, which he has cited to support his claims of political bias.

“He should be right now in Pennsylvania, in Florida and in many other states (North Carolina, Georgia) campaigning,” Trump said Tuesday.

Leave a comment