Trump’s history-making hush money trial begins with the challenge of choosing a jury

(ANGELA WEISS/Associated Press)

Trump’s history-making hush money trial begins with the challenge of choosing a jury

Election 2024

Jennifer Peltz and Michael R. Sisak

April 15, 2024

Donald Trump arrived at a New York court on Monday for the start of jury selection in his hush money trial, marking a unique moment in American history as the former president and current White House hopeful answers to criminal charges.

It is the first criminal trial against a former US commander in chief and the first of four charges against Trump to come to trial. Because he is also the presumptive nominee for this year’s Republican ticket, the trial will present the dizzying split-screen of a presidential candidate who spends his days in court and, he has said, campaigning at night.

At the start of Monday’s court proceedings, Judge Juan M. Merchan denied a defense request to withdraw from the case. Additional legal arguments and housekeeping were expected before the formal start of jury selection.

When it finally begins, dozens of people will be called into the courtroom to start the trial to find 12 jurors, plus six alternates. Trump’s prominence would make the process of choosing a jury a nearly herculean task each year, but it is likely to be particularly challenging now as it unfolds in a closely contested presidential election in the city where Trump grew up and rises to the status of celebrity was catapulted before he won the election. White House.

The Trump trial is about more than just sex and money. It’s about what presidents can get away with, Judge Juan M.

Merchan has written that the key is whether the prospective juror can assure us that they will put aside any personal feelings or biases and make a decision based on the evidence and the law.

The trial amounts to a historic courtroom reckoning for Trump, whose norm-shattering presidency was overshadowed by investigations from start to finish and who now faces four separate indictments accusing him of crimes.

ranging from inclusive

hoarding secret documents

until and

plotting to overturn an election.

Yet the political stakes are less clear given that a conviction would not prevent him from becoming president and because the allegations in this case have been known to the public for years and are seen as less serious than the conduct behind the three other cases against him.

Regardless of the outcome, Trump wants to take advantage of the proceedings and present himself as the victim of politically motivated prosecutions designed to derail his candidacy. He has criticized judges and prosecutors for years, a pattern of attacks that continued until the moment he entered the court


Monday, when he said: “This is political persecution. This is a persecution like never before.

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

Prosecutors say he tried to cover up an alleged attempt to remain lascivious and, he says, false stories about his sex life that emerged during his 2016 campaign.

Trump is on trial today in New York. This is what you can expect

The indictment concerns $130,000 in payments Trump’s company made to his then-lawyer Michael Cohen. He had paid that amount on behalf of Trump to prevent porn actor Stormy Daniels from going public a month before the elections with her claims about a sexual encounter with the married mogul ten years earlier.

Prosecutors say the payments to Cohen were falsely recorded as legal fees to disguise their true purpose. Trump’s lawyers say the payouts were indeed legal fees, not a cover-up.

Trump himself has characterized the case, and his charges elsewhere, as a broad weaponization of law enforcement by Democratic prosecutors and officials. He claims they are orchestrating sham charges in hopes of hindering his presidential run.

After decades of litigating and initiating lawsuits, the businessman-turned-politician now faces a trial that could result in up to four years in prison if convicted, although a no-jail sentence would also be possible.

The trial of an ex-president and current candidate is a moment of extraordinary gravity for the American political system, but also for Trump himself. Such a scenario would once have seemed unthinkable to many Americans, even a president whose tenure has left a trail of shattered norms, including two impeachments, and


recognized by the Senate.

The judge refuses to postpone the hush-money criminal trial against Trump due to complaints about publicity in the preliminary trial

The courtroom scene may be greeted with a spectacle outside. When Trump was indicted last year, police broke up minor skirmishes between his supporters and protesters near the courthouse in a small park where a local Republican group has planned a pro-Trump rally on Monday.

Trump’s lawyers lost a bid to have the hush money case dismissed and have since repeatedly tried to delay it, prompting a flurry of last-minute hearings in the appeals court last week.

Trump’s lawyers claim, among other things, that the jury in predominantly Democratic Manhattan has been tainted by negative publicity about Trump and that the case should be moved elsewhere.

An appeals judge has rejected an emergency request to delay the trial, while the request for a change of venue goes to a group of appeals judges, who will consider it in the coming weeks.

Prosecutors in Manhattan have countered that much of the publicity stems from Trump’s own comments and that asking questions will show whether future jurors can set aside any biases. According to prosecutors, there is no reason to believe that there cannot be twelve honest and impartial people among Manhattan’s roughly 1.4 million adult residents.

The process of choosing those 12, plus six alternates, will begin with dozens of people reporting to Merchan’s courtroom. They will be known only by numbers because he has ordered their names kept secret from everyone except prosecutors, Trump and their legal teams.

The New York appeals court rejects Trump’s third request to postpone Monday’s hush money trial

After hearing some basics about the case and jury service, potential jurors are asked to raise their hands if they believe they cannot serve or be fair and impartial. Those who do will be excused, according to Merchan’s filing last week.

The rest are eligible for questioning. The 42 pre-approved, sometimes multi-part searches include background information, but also reflect the unique nature of the case.

Do you have any strong opinions or held beliefs about former President Donald Trump, or the fact that he is currently a presidential candidate, that would interfere with your ability to be a fair and impartial juror? asks one question.

Others ask about attending Trump or anti-Trump rallies, opinions on how he is being treated in the case, news sources and more, including political, moral, intellectual or religious beliefs or opinions that might shape a prospective juror’s approach to the case could influence. .

Based on the answers, the attorneys can ask a judge to eliminate people for cause if they meet certain criteria of being unable to serve or being unbiased. The attorneys can also use peremptory recusals to exclude ten potential jurors and two potential alternates without giving a reason.

If you start hitting everyone who is a Republican or a Democrat, the judge noted at a hearing in February, you will very quickly run out of compelling challenges.

Peltz and Sisak write for the Associated Press.


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