2 members of Trump jury excused, including woman who feared being identified

Two people who were selected to serve on the jury in former President Donald Trump’s criminal trial in New York were excused on Thursday, including one woman who expressed concerns about being identified publicly and her ability to remain impartial.

The number of seated jurors now stands at five on the third day of proceedings.

Juror #2, a young woman who was chosen to serve on Tuesday, said she “definitely has concerns now” about serving after friends and family asked her if she was a juror, based on media reports.

“Aspects of my identity have already been out there in public. Yesterday alone, I had friends and family push things to me,” she told the court on Thursday. “I don’t think at this point that I can be fair and unbiased.”

The judge, Juan Merchan, immediately reprimanded the press for reporting what he said was too much information about the jurors. He ordered that questions about potential jurors’ employers would be redacted from the court record moving forward, and directed reporters not to mention jurors’ physical appearance.

Prosecutors also raised concerns about Juror #4, saying they discovered information about someone sharing the person’s name who was arrested and potentially involved in a corruption investigation in the 1990s. The man arrived late to court and was briefly questioned by attorneys in front of the judge, out of earshot from the court’s microphones. Merchan ultimately decided to dismiss the man.

Day 3 of jury selection

A new cohort of 96 Manhattan residents filled the courtroom Thursday as attorneys worked to fill the remaining seven slots on the jury, plus half a dozen alternates.

Former President Donald Trump attends his criminal trial as jury selection continues at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 18, 2024, in New York City.
Former President Donald Trump attends his criminal trial as jury selection continues at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 18, 2024, in New York City. Timothy A. Clary/Pool/Getty Images

Half of the new group — 48 — said they could not be impartial and were immediately excused. Nine others were excused for other reasons, which were not disclosed. Those who remain will undergo a 42-question assessment designed to help the lawyers glean their feelings about Trump and their ability to fairly decide the outcome of the first criminal trial of a former president in U.S. history.

Earlier in the week, a smaller group that made it past the initial screening was questioned individually as consultants for the lawyers combed through their online lives. Some were confronted by Trump’s attorneys with social media posts dating back years before they were excused. 

Each side in the case is allowed 10 peremptory challenges, enabling them to excuse a potential juror without explanation, and there are an unlimited number of “for cause” challenges, which call for a person to be excused if there’s a clear conflict. The judge must sign off on the latter.

With a new batch of 96 Manhattanites being considered Thursday, each side has four peremptory challenges remaining. They will also have five more peremptory challenges when choosing the six alternates.

Trump pleaded not guilty when he was indicted more than a year ago on 34 felony counts of falsification of business records. He denies all allegations in the case, which revolves around reimbursements to former attorney Michael Cohen, for a “hush money” payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels. Prosecutors say Trump covered up the reimbursements in order to distance himself from the payment, which days before the 2016 presidential election temporarily bought Daniels’ silence about an alleged affair. Trump has also denied having the affair.

Trump has raged against the case, accusing prosecutors of charging him for political reasons. He has also frequently lashed out at the judge on social media, accusing Merchan of bias. But in the courtroom, Trump has been largely quiet and reserved, even appearing to nod off from time to time.

Still, Merchan had to warn Trump on Tuesday about “audibly uttering something … speaking in the direction of the juror” under questioning at the time about one of her social media posts. 

“I won’t tolerate that. I will not have any jurors intimidated in this courtroom. I want to make that crystal clear,” Merchan said. 

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