Process of selecting jury in Trump case continues

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The process of selecting a 12-person jury and six alternates continues in the New York criminal trial of former United States (US) President Donald Trump.

More than half of the first group of 96 potential jurors have already been dismissed. This is after indicating they could not be fair and impartial when it comes to Trump, an early indication that this process could drag on for days if not weeks before any evidence is led.

Trump faces charges in relation to a 34-count indictment, that he falsified business records in relation to hush-money payments to an adult film actress during the closing days of the 2016-election campaign in an effort to suppress an alleged affair.

As the slow process of jury selection continues inside the courthouse, small groups of supporters and protestors have gathered outside the judicial precinct in lower Manhattan, expressing vastly divergent views about the historic first criminal trial of a former US President.

“ Nobody wants to talk about how Donald Trump did nothing wrong. Nobody wants to talk about this corrupt Judge Merchan and his corrupt daughter,” said Trump supporter and rightwing activist Laura Loomer speaking through a megaphone.

Social advocacy activist Jamie Bauerin support of the prosecution.

“ This is about what happened in 2016, when Trump tried to squelch information that he viewed as prejudicial to him. He broke the law in doing that. We believe that (Manhattan District Attorney) Alvin Bragg has a good case and that there will be a fair jury of New Yorkers there to judge the information and the law and make a decision. We, individually and collectively, are glad to see that Trump is finally being brought in front of the judge in a criminal case.”

A large media contingent is camped outside court, along with a tight security apparatus given the defendant in the case, who is also the presumptive Republican nominee in November’s Presidential election.

This was Trump speaking outside the courtroom earlier Tuesday.

” This is a trial that should have never been brought. I’d say, a trial that is being looked upon, looked at all over the world. they’re calling it… they are looking at it and analyzing it. Every legal pundit, every legal scholar said this trial is a disgrace. We have a Trump-hating judge. We have a judge who shouldn’t be on this case. He’s totally conflicted. But this is a trial that should never happen. It should have been thrown out a long time ago.”

The politics of the moment are clashing with the realities of a criminal trial of a man running for the highest office in the land.

“ Jury selection is not going to be easy in this case. Judge (Juan) Merchan is probably going to go through maybe hundreds of jurors to find 12 who can be fair and impartial. Everyone in this country has an opinion of the former president (Donald Trump). Some think he is a criminal and an insurrectionist. Others think he’s a hero who’s being treated unfairly and railroaded by a criminal justice system. To find 12 who can put those feelings aside and come into this courtroom and decide the case solely on the facts and evidence in this case is no easy task,” said former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani.

Rahmani also believes Trump is likely to take the stand in his own defence.

“Trump doesn’t have to testify but I think he will testify. He testified in the New York civil fraud case and this case is as much for the courtroom as it is for the court of public opinion. And Trump is in the middle of an election year and he will take the stand and he will talk to the American people and those undecided voters. I think him asserting his right to remain silent, I think that will be used against him by undecided voters.”

Potential jurors have to answer key questions before being admitted to hear evidence in the trial; this includes where they live in the city, where they work, questions about their personal or familial ties to Trump or the Trump Organisation, their religious beliefs and its impact on sitting for the trial and what they read in terms of news consumption among a long list of questions.

At the White House yesterday, President Joe Biden was asked if he would watch the trial, he politely shook his head “no” in response.