Payments to Stormy Daniels | The first challenge in Trump's trial: jury selection

Payments to Stormy Daniels |  The first challenge in Trump's trial: jury selection

(New York) “Have you ever attended a rally or campaign event for Donald Trump? »: Anonymous New Yorkers will have to answer these kinds of questions next week to be part of the jury in the first criminal trial of a former US president.


Donald Trump faces 34 counts of forging documents that were used, according to the prosecutor, to conceal a payment to X-rated movie star Stormy Daniels to buy her silence before the 2016 presidential election.

The Republican, once again nominated for the White House, denies any sexual relationship with Stormy Daniels and denies any fraudulent secret agreement with the actress.

The file is titled “The People of the State of New York vs. Donald J. Trump.” Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday, April 15, and hundreds of Manhattan residents have received summonses to appear in court. From them, twelve jurors and up to six alternate jurors will be selected, and the trial is expected to last up to six weeks.

“Anti-Trump”?

Each potential juror, selected at random from a public list of evaluators, will have to orally answer seven pages of questions ranging from profession to political orientation, the result of an agreement between the prosecution and defense attorneys.

Among them: “Do you follow an anti-Trump organization or group on social media, or have you followed one in the past? »

In the survey, they are also asked if they have an opinion about the way Donald Trump is being handled on the issue, or if they support far-right groups like the conspiracy nebula QAnon or the white supremacist organization the Proud Boys.

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Their judgment must be unanimous, hence the importance of each.

The prosecutors prosecuting Mr. Trump, like the lawyers defending the septuagenarian, will be desperate to know which side jurors lean on politically, knowing that New Yorkers voted overwhelmingly for Democrats Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, respectively, in 2016 and 2020.

Despite being born in New York and building his real estate empire there, Donald Trump remains a controversial figure, to say the least, in the big city.

“Manhattan has a long history with Donald Trump,” recalls Leslie Ellis, an attorney and jury psychology expert. “Not only because of his presidency and the period after his presidency, but also because of his experience in New York real estate and business before that.”

For this reason in particular, the former president's lawyers tried, unsuccessfully, to postpone the trial. According to them, jurors in New York would have been exposed to “enormous biased and unfair media coverage.” Some questions relate to the way they obtain information.

The target of several other legal actions, Mr. Trump, 77, continues to denounce the “witch hunt” being carried out by Democratic prosecutors and judges seeking to derail his campaign to reclaim the White House in November.

“Many potential jurors believe, incorrectly, that President Trump is guilty,” the candidate’s lawyer said in an argument sent to Judge Juan Merchan, who will preside over the hearings.

Protected jurors

But District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who filed charges against Mr. Trump, dismisses that idea. “Given the size of New York County, it is absurd for a defendant to assert that it would be impossible or impractical to find ten fair and impartial jurors, plus alternates, out of more than a million people,” Mr. Bragg said.

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However, jury composition is expected to be more complex than usual. Judge Merchan has already ruled that the names of the jury members will remain secret because of the “possibility of bribery, jury tampering, physical harm or harassment.”

Judge Donald Trump also warned that if he violates his order requiring him to remain silent outside the proceedings, particularly prohibiting him from criticizing witnesses or court personnel, he could decide not to send the names of the jurors to his lawyers.

Such a decision would hamper Mr. Trump's defense by limiting his ability to seek information about a potential juror, outside of the questions asked during the questionnaire. Just like prosecutors, the former businessman's attorney will have the possibility of preemptively challenging this or that juror.

According to Leslie Ellis, although this may seem hard to believe regarding a high-profile figure like Donald Trump, there will certainly be potential jurors who will claim, in good faith, that they don't know much about the case.

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About the Author: Hermínio Guimarães

"Introvertido premiado. Viciado em mídia social sutilmente charmoso. Praticante de zumbis. Aficionado por música irritantemente humilde."

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