Trump trial jury selection complicated by opinionated New Yorkers

Trump trial jury selection complicated by opinionated New Yorkers
Trump trial jury selection complicated by opinionated New Yorkers

We show you our most important and recent visitors news details trial jury selection complicated by opinionated New Yorkers in the following article

Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - NEW YORK — A 40-year-old New Yorker did not expect to report to jury duty this week and come face to face with Donald Trump.

Yet he found himself in the first batch of 96 prospective jurors for the former US president's historic criminal trial.

He breezily answered the first few screening questions: what he did for a living (finance), what he did in his free time (golf), which podcasts he enjoyed (Barstool Sports).

But the biggest question of all stopped him short: Could you judge the defendant impartially?

He said he spent a lot of time with Republicans, and was raised in Texas, a state that skews conservative.

He told the courtroom he felt he might have "unconscious bias".

It might be hard to be impartial, he told Justice Juan Merchan, who swiftly dismissed him.

Speaking to the BBC outside court, the man, who asked us not to use his name so as to protect his privacy, expressed skepticism that an impartial jury could be found in New York to hear the case.

"I want to have faith that people can be impartial," he said. "However, I think it's just going to be tough in the state of New York."

Yet find an impartial jury they must.

By Tuesday afternoon, the court had managed to pick seven jurors deemed suitable for the job, including a jury foreman who works as a sales professional and is originally from Ireland.

The other chosen jurors include two lawyers, an English teacher, a software engineer and an oncology nurse.

But it could take several more days to fill the 12-person jury and up to six alternative seats.

At one point, Justice Merchan warned he would not tolerate jurors being "intimidated" after saying Trump was audibly muttering while members of the panel were being questioned.

As the selection process got under way on Monday, the sheer difficulty of the task became clear.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

It will be up to 12 regular people to decide whether he is innocent, guilty, or if a consensus cannot be reached.

Even prosecutors and Trump's attorneys acknowledged in court that it is nearly impossible to find an American — a New Yorker, no less — with no opinion of Trump. The court could sift through hundreds of them to get it right.

On the opening day of trial, the first batch of potential jurors was immediately halved when dozens raised their hands to indicate they could not be impartial about Trump.

The remaining prospects were a cast of quintessential New Yorkers.

A lawyer from the Chelsea neighborhood. A venture capitalist from Midtown. A man on the Upper West Side who ran a bookstore and listened to NPR in the shower. A creative director. A locksmith. A man from Puerto Rico who now lived on the Lower East Side. Nearly everyone read the New York Times.

The court was treated to variations of the classic New York accents as they began to answer the 42-item jury questionnaire. Several were struck due to their answers, mostly around impartiality.

A man from Lower Manhattan with greying hair and dark-rimmed glasses said he had read two of Trump's books, The Art of the Deal and How to Get Rich.

He said he had read another of Trump's books but could not recall the title, eliciting a chuckle from the ex-president, who was shuffling through papers at the defense table.

This prospective juror said several of his wife's family members were Republican party lobbyists, but he told the court nothing "would prevent me from being a fair and impartial juror".

He did note, however, that it would be difficult not to discuss the case with his wife.

Joshua Steinglass, a prosecutor with the Manhattan district attorney's office, and Todd Blanche, Trump's lead attorney, took turns grilling a winnowed batch of 18 people to weed out any bias.

A woman with a brash accent at one point told the court that she could be trusted not to let her media consumption influence her opinion of the case because she had spent the month of February at a holiday home with no wifi.

One prospective juror, a Harlem man, asked by Blanche if he understood the stakes of the trial, summed it up: "Man's life is on the line. Country's on the line. This is serious."

When Blanche repeatedly pressed another man to give his true opinion of Trump, the individual blithely replied: "If I was sitting in a bar I'd be happy to tell you."

But he insisted he would set any personal feelings aside in a court of law.

Not satisfied, Trump's attorneys combed through the jurors' media to find any evidence of bias.

A few jurors experienced a chronic Internet user's worst nightmare: having their old social media musings read out loud in court.

One juror was rejected for a "lock him up" post.

Another made posts declaring that superhero group The Avengers were teaming up against Donald Trump, and expressed amorous thoughts for outspokenly liberal actor Mark Ruffalo.

Another made an off-putting racial joke comparing Trump to former President Barack Obama.

The drawn-out cycle of questioning and culling will continue until a full jury has been impaneled.

By mid-afternoon on Tuesday, Justice Merchan summoned another 96 people to take their turn under the microscope.

"I think this is not at all surprising," said Diana Florence, a former Manhattan prosecutor.

"In any high profile case which has received media attention and where one of the parties is famous, the ability to put aside preconceived notions about the person or the case will be always be an issue."

"When you add in that the defendant is a former president running for president and that it is Donald Trump who has lived in the headlines for nearly a half century, it was totally expected that there would a large number of people who could not be impartial," she said.

Throughout the process, many New Yorkers promised that they took their duty as a jury member seriously.

"Especially in this courtroom he will be treated as anyone else can be treated and no-one is above the law," said the oncology nurse who was chosen for the panel.

But outside court, the excused 40-year-old juror from Texas felt it would have been irresponsible for him to take that chance.

"How can I be impartial, right?" he said. "If you look at yourself in the mirror and have an honest conversation, it's just tough. — BBC


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