More Than 50 Jurors Dismissed on First Day of Trump ‘Hush-Money’ Trial

Jack Phillips
By Jack Phillips
April 15, 2024Donald Trump
More than half of the first batch of potential jurors were dismissed after answering questions about their backgrounds and whether they have strong feelings on former President Donald Trump.

More than half the prospective jurors were dismissed during the first day of former President Donald Trump’s so-called “hush-money” trial on Monday.

Ninety-six possible jurors were asked by Judge Juan Merchan if they could be fair or impartial, and more than half raised their hand to indicate that they couldn’t, according to press pool reporters, who estimated that at least 50 were let go for that reason alone.

“If you have an honest, legitimate, good-faith reason to believe you cannot serve on this case or cannot be fair and impartial, please let me know now,” the judge specifically asked the jury pool in court on Monday, drawing the hand-raising response.

A potential juror who was excused was heard saying in the hallway that “I just couldn’t do it” while exiting the courtroom, according to reporters. The judge also excused a juror who was originally from Texas who answered “yes” to a question about whether she had “firmly held beliefs” about President Trump.

Potential jurors could be asked about their news consumption, affiliations with groups such as Antifa or the Proud Boys, whether they attended a Trump rally, if they have consumed media featuring Michael Cohen, if they have read one of President Trump’s books, or if they have views on how the former president is being treated in the case.

Other Court Activity

Earlier on Monday, Judge Merchan directly warned President Trump that he needs to show up for court every day it is in session otherwise he could be arrested. The former president responded in the affirmative.

It means that the former president will have to appear in court every day for the next eight weeks or so. Over the weekend President Trump told a Pennsylvania crowd that it’s a form of election interference, noting that he could instead be campaigning.

The judge ruled on a number of motions, including one from President Trump’s team that asked him to recuse himself. He would not and said the issue would not be presented again until an appeals court renders a decision on the matter.

The judge also ruled that allegations of sexual assault after the release of an “Access Hollywood” tape in late 2016 that contained President Trump’s voice could not be presented to the jury. The tape also cannot be played during the trial.

But Judge Merchan did allow prosecutors to present claims made by a former model, Karen McDougal, about an alleged affair that she and President Trump had years ago. The former president has denied her claims.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass told the court that the district attorney’s office wants to admit a transcript of the “Access Hollywood” tape that resurfaced ahead of the 2016 presidential election, claiming that the tape contains an alleged admission of a sexual assault. The judge said that the prosecution cannot play the tape during the trial, making note of a previous ruling he had issued, but stipulated that prosecutors can read the words aloud.

“It’s not a little point,” Judge Merchan said, according to court reporters. “My ruling that we were not to play the tape was, and remains, that the tape itself is so prejudicial … the tape itself should not come in.”

The judge also ruled Monday that video footage from President Trump’s deposition in E. Jean Carroll’s defamation trial should not be played in front of the jury. But the judge did allow alleged Trump campaign interactions with the National Enquirer to be allowed in the trial.

“I believe this is necessary to complete the narrative of what took place,” Judge Merchan said of the National Enquirer stories claims.

Trump attorney Todd Blanche had argued in court that those two topics are a “sideshow” that would “do nothing but confuse the jury about the actual crime charged,” adding that some allegations that prosecutors want to enter are “literally just salacious with no value.”

The former president has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records that arose from an alleged effort to keep stories that he describes as false out of the press. He has denied having an affair with adult actress Stormy Daniels, who may be called in as a witness in the case and whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

The charges center on $130,000 in payments that President Trump’s company made to his then-lawyer, Michael Cohen. He had paid that sum on the former president’s behalf to Ms. Clifford about a month before the 2016 election.

Prosecutors say the payments to Mr. Cohen were falsely logged as legal fees in order to cloak their actual purpose. But the former president’s lawyers say the disbursements indeed were legal expenses, not a cover-up. Some legal experts have argued that the charges President Trump faces in Manhattan should classified as a misdemeanor, not a class E felony.

Before entering the court on Monday, President Trump said he is a victim of “political persecution” and is being unfairly targeted due to his position as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. He also faces three other criminal cases in Georgia, Washington, and Florida, and has pleaded not guilty to those charges as well.

On Sunday, he wrote on Truth Social that Judge Merchan is compromised and said he did not give defense lawyers enough time to review thousands of documents that were provided by District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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