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Full Jury and 6 Alternates Seated in Trump's Hush Money Trial
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By Associated Press
Published 1 month ago on
April 19, 2024

Former President Donald Trump waves as he enters Manhattan Criminal Court on Friday, April 19, 2024 in New York. (AP/Spencer Platt)

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NEW YORK — A jury of 12 people and six alternates was seated on Friday in former President Donald Trump’s hush money criminal trial.

The completion of the jury selection process tees up the first-ever criminal trial of a former U.S. president for opening statements and weeks of testimony in a case charging Trump with falsifying business records to suppress stories about his sex life emerging in the final days of the 2016 election.

The jury includes a sales professional, a software engineer, an English teacher and multiple lawyers.

The process had initially folded at a fairly rapid pace, with seven jurors seated by the end of Tuesday. But two jurors were dismissed on Thursday, one after expressing concerns about her ability to be impartial and the other amid questions about whether he had provided accurate answers about his past during the selection process.

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

At the heart of the allegations is a $130,000 payment made to porn actor Stormy Daniels by Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and personal fixer, to prevent her claims of a sexual encounter with Trump from becoming public in the final days of the 2016 race.

Prosecutors say Trump obscured the true nature of such payments in internal business documents. Trump has said none of the alleged sexual encounters occurred. He has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

Selection Process Pushes Potential Jurors to Breaking Point

Over the past few days, more than a couple of prospective jurors in Donald Trump’s hush money trial have highlighted the stress and anxiety they have felt during the selection process.

One woman was being questioned Friday by a prosecutor about her ability to decide the case based only on courtroom evidence when she began to cry.

“I feel so nervous and anxious right now,” the woman said through tears. “I’m so sorry. I wouldn’t want someone who feels like this to judge my case either. I don’t want to waste the court’s time. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time.”

After conferring briefly with the prosecution and defense, Judge Juan M. Merchan dismissed the woman from consideration.

The outsized media attention and public interest in the case isn’t the only thing driving some would-be jurors to their breaking points, though. Those called into the courtroom are also answering a lengthy list of personal questions, revealing details about their family life and brushes with the law that have stirred other emotional responses.

Potential Juror Reports Connections to People in Trump’s Orbit

New York is the most populous city in the U.S., but this trial has shown that it can also feel a lot like a small town.

One prospective juror said she had connections to not one but two people who’ve been in Trump’s orbit: the former president’s ex-lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who backed Trump in 2020 but later ran against him.

The woman disclosed that she works at the same company as a Cohen relative — though they’ve never crossed paths — and that someone in her family is friends with Christie. Despite that, she assured the court that she could be fair and impartial.

‘Gag Order Has to Come Off,’ Trump Says

Speaking to reporters inside the lower Manhattan courthouse, former President Donald Trump once again railed against his hush money trial, demanding Judge Juan M. Merchan lift a gag order limiting what he can say publicly about witnesses.

“The gag order has to come off. People are allowed to speak about me and I have a gag order,” he said.

Prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney’s office are looking to fine Trump over violating his gag order after disparaging witnesses in the case on social media. A hearing is set for next week.

Trump’s Legal Entanglements Could Be a Trial Issue

Judge Juan M. Merchan was expected to hold a hearing Friday to consider a request from prosecutors to bring up Donald Trump’s prior legal entanglements if he takes the stand in the hush money case.

Manhattan prosecutors have said they want to question Trump about his recent civil fraud trial that resulted in a $454 million judgment after a judge found Trump had lied about his wealth for years. He is appealing that verdict.

Trump says he did nothing wrong and has cast himself as the victim of a politically motivated justice system bent on keeping him out of the White House. He has lashed out on social media about the judge, prosecutors and potential witnesses, prompting the district attorneys to seek sanctions for possible violations of a gag order in the criminal case.

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