Two Trump jurors sent home as selection encounters new difficulties

Court continues arduous process of picking jurors for first criminal trial involving a former US president

Two of seven jurors painstakingly selected for Donald Trump’s “hush money” trial were sent home on Thursday, after one woman’s identity was pieced together by family and friends from publicly reported details, and another man was connected to an arrest for ripping down rightwing posters in the 1990s.

The setbacks came as the court continued the arduous process of picking 12 New Yorkers, and about six alternates, who pledge that they will remain impartial in deciding the first criminal trial involving a former US president, which has drawn intense press coverage from outlets around the world.

Mr Trump is facing trial on 34 criminal counts of falsifying business records for alleged payments made to buy the silence of a an adult film star who claimed she had an affair with him in the run-up to the 2016 election. He has pleaded not guilty and must be present in the Lower Manhattan courtroom throughout the six-week trial.

Hundreds of prospective jurors have been brought in for questioning since Monday, with dozens already dismissed for claiming they could not set aside their bias when it came to determining Mr Trump’s fate. Seven were eventually picked after two days of intense scrutiny of their media habits, political views and personal circumstances.


Soon after court resumed on Thursday morning, an oncology nurse from Manhattan’s Upper East Side, who had been seated late on Tuesday, told justice Juan Merchan that she had “friends, family and colleagues” contacting her after piecing together from press reports that she had been chosen as a juror in the Trump trial.

She added that, as a result of the external pressure, she no longer felt she could be fair and unbiased, and was promptly excused.

Minutes later, lawyers for the Manhattan district attorney, who brought the case, revealed their research had uncovered that a male juror may not have been truthful about his past, and had been arrested for ripping down right-wing political posters in the Westchester County area of New York state in the 1990s. His wife may have been “previously accused or involved in a corruption inquiry”, the district attorney’s office said.

The juror, an IT consultant from the Lower East Side, arrived later for questioning and engaged in an animated conversation with lawyers that could not be heard in open court. Judge Merchan noted that the juror had expressed some reluctance to appear when told he needed to come in to address the research, and later excused him without further explanation..

Although prospective jurors’ names and addresses have been kept private for fear of reprisals, Judge Merchan admonished the press for publishing “so much information” about their physical attributes and professional lives that some had become “very, very easy to identify”.

He urged journalists attending the trial to “simply apply common sense” and refrain from providing such detail, because “it serves no purpose”. He then ruled that details of where jurors work or have worked would be redacted from transcripts and could no longer be reported.

Prosecutors on Thursday also renewed their request for Judge Merchan to hold Mr Trump in contempt for violating a gag order that prevents him from talking about many of the people involved in the case, pointing specifically to a social media post shared by the former president that seemed to imply some prospective jurors were “undercover Liberal Activists”.

Judge Merchan said he would rule after oral arguments on the issue, which are scheduled for Tuesday. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2024