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Trump hears first-hand what New York jurors think of him


While he craned his neck to listen to a panel of Manhattan residents who could end up delivering a verdict against him, Donald Trump heard from a group of New Yorkers put on the spot to voice their opinions about the former president.

Mr Trump – sitting with his defence attorneys in a Manhattan criminal courthouse for the second day of jury selection in his hush money case – heard from a first-round panel of potential jurors who could end up on the jury.

One man said he finds the former president “fascinating.”

“He walks into a room and he sets people off. I find that really interesting,” he said. “Certainly he makes things interesting.”

Mr Trump flashed a smile. An overflow courtoom full of reporters couldn’t help but laugh. His lead attorney Todd Blanche stood for a moment and said, “Um, all right. Thank you.”

Defense attorneys and prosecutors with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office got their first chance on Tuesday to “strike” potential members of the jury, whittling down a pool of 500 prospective jurors to the 18 Americans – 12 members and their alternates – who could be the first to ever find a former president guilty of a crime.

By Tuesday afternoon, six jurors were selected to serve on the trial – including the foreperson who will likely read a verdict, if one is reached.

New York Justice Juan Merchan suggested that a full panel could be selected by Monday, with opening arguments to follow in the first ever criminal trial of a former president.

A courtroom sketch depicts Donald Trump sitting next to his attorney Todd Blanche while watching Manhattan prosecutor Joshua Steinglass inside a Manhattan criminal courtoom on 16 April. (REUTERS)

Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass asked jurors whether they can put aside what they might know about the former president, stick to the facts, and determine whether Mr Trump falsified business records “to cover up an agreement to unlawfully influence the 2016 election.”

Mr Trump’s attorney told jurors that the former president deserves a “fair shake.”

“It’s easy to read something off a sheet of paper and say, ‘Yes I’m going to be fair and impartial,’” Mr Blanche said. “What I want to do is test that a little bit.”

Mr Blanche asked for jurors’ opinions of Mr Trump before they walked into the courthouse, stressing that he wouldn’t be “offended” by whatever they said.

The former president has tried, and failed, to move the case out of Manhattan, baselessly arguing that a jury pool would be unfairly biased against him, and that he instead should be tried in the Republican-leaning borough of Staten Island, which he won in 2016 and 2020.

Instead, juror after juror affirmed that they could remain fair and impartial, weigh the facts of the case, and put whatever political or personal feelings about Mr Trump aside.

“I didn’t even know I was walking into this,” one prospective juror replied. “I’m here for my civic duty. I’m here just to listen to the facts and not let anything persuade me either way.”

Donald Trump appears in criminal court in New York City on 16 April for the second day of jury selection in his hush money case. (AP)

Another potential juror – who one day earlier declared that “nobody is above the law, whether it’s a former president, a sitting president, or a janitor” – said that his opinion of Mr Trump “has no bearing.”

“What I think about President Trump outside of this room has nothing to do with what’s going on inside this room and would not, in my mind,” he said.

Mr Blanche tried to press him to answer.

“My view doesn’t matter. If we were sitting in a bar, I would tell you. But in this room, what I feel about PresidentTrump is not important,” he added. “I’ll say I’m a Democrat. There you go. … I walk in here, and he’s a defendant, that’s all he is.”

Another juror said he may disagree with Mr Trump’s policies as president and as the presumptive Republican nominee, but “feelings are not facts.”

“I’m very grateful to be an American, and that happened the first year he was president,” he said.

“Whatever came of tweets or whatever I read on the news, somebody is behind that, filtering it in a way. I’m very skeptical,” another juror replied. “ I don’t think I’m going to have a problem separating that and starting out at zero. I don’t know how to convince you of that. I understand your dilemma, I truly do. The district attorney wants the same thing. I will do my level-headed best if I’m sitting here.”

Asked by Mr Blanche whether jurors can separate this criminal trial from the other three criminal cases against Mr Trump, the prospective jurors agreed that they could.

“They’re about different things in different courts,” one juror said. “This is a case we have to take on its own merits here. To me it feels really simple to do, to compartmentalize.”

As Mr Trump’s attorneys sought to strike several potential jurors from the case, Judge Merchan criticised Mr Blanche for the “problematic” open-ended question about jurors’ opinions of his client.


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