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Trump trial: Dozens of jurors rejected as they say they cannot be impartial

  • By Madeline Halpert and Kayla Epstein
  • BBC News, New York

Video caption, Watch: A view from inside the courthouse for Trump’s historic trial

Donald Trump’s unprecedented criminal trial began with half of a pool of potential jurors excluded within minutes on grounds of impartiality.

Mr. Trump denies falsifying business records to conceal a hush-hush payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.

Sixty of the 96 potential jurors were quick to tell the New York court that they could not be impartial.

Those who remained were then asked several questions, including about their current affairs and their book reading habits.

“I just couldn’t do it,” one prospective juror said as she left court Monday.

The dismissals show how difficult it can be to find a group of 12 impartial jurors for a case related to a high-profile sex scandal involving a former president running again for the White House.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office alleges that Mr Trump ordered his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, to pay Ms Daniels $130,000 (£104,000) in exchange for her silence about an alleged sexual relationship the former president denies taking place.

Prosecutors say he did so to “illegally influence” the 2016 election. Mr. Trump has pleaded not guilty.

Jury selection began in the afternoon. The judge began by dismissing jurors who raised their hands to say they couldn’t be impartial, leaving about 34 people.

Those who remained were then asked 42 questions from the jury questionnaire, including their news reading habits, whether they had attended Trump rallies or read any of the former president’s books.

Eighteen were randomly placed in the jury box and responded to the questionnaire one by one.

A Midtown Manhattan man said he read the Wall Street Journal. Another from the Upper West Side said his radio habits included listening to whatever was on while he was in the shower. He later clarified that he was talking about NPR.

Neither were fired immediately.

One woman was asked, “Do you have any strong opinions or strongly held beliefs about former President Donald Trump, or his current presidential candidate, that might interfere with your ability to be a fair and impartial juror? »

She simply said “yes” and was fired, although Mr. Trump’s team initially objected to excusing her for reasons she did not explain.

All jurors will remain anonymous because of the high-profile nature of the case, although Mr. Trump’s legal team and prosecutors will know their identities.

The accused remained silent all day, speaking to his lawyers in a hushed tone while maintaining a stern expression. He said three words throughout the morning to the judge, New York Judge Juan Merchan – all “yes,” when asked what conduct was required in court.

But outside court, Mr Trump said the trial was “nonsense” and an “assault on America”.

Mr. Trump’s public remarks on the case were the subject of several minutes of debate during the morning in court.

Prosecutors argued that some of Mr. Trump’s posts on his social media site, Truth Social, violated the order of silence that Judge Merchan imposed on him. The order prohibits Mr. Trump from making public comments about people connected to the case, including potential witnesses.

The order was extended to relatives of those involved after Mr. Trump attacked Judge Merchan’s daughter on social media.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office asked Judge Merchan to fine Mr Trump a total of $3,000 (£2,400) for three posts. That includes an article published Saturday in which he called his former lawyer – and future trial witness – Michael Cohen a “disgraced lawyer and criminal.”

The judge set a hearing date for April 24 to make a decision.

The judge used the morning to decide what evidence would be admissible in court.

The defense and prosecution have argued over leaked audio of Mr. Trump released just before the 2016 election. In the clip, taken from a recording of NBC’s Access Hollywood, Mr. Trump speaks to grab women by their genitals.

Prosecutors asked to include an email chain between Trump campaign officials and the Washington Post reporter who broke the Access Hollywood story, which included a transcript of the tape.

The judge refused to allow the audio to be played for jurors, but said prosecutors could refer to what Mr. Trump said on the tape.

Legend, A woman holds a banner in front of New York criminal court

Throughout the day, Mr. Trump was cheered by dozens of people who gathered peacefully but loudly outside the court.

They included a man playing The Star-Spangled Banner on the flute for hours and a Trump impersonator wearing a blond wig and red tie.

There were others significantly less enthusiastic about the former president. One of them held a banner that read: “Condemn Trump Already.”

The secret trial is just one of four criminal cases facing the former president. But he could be the only one to face trial before the 2024 presidential election, a rematch between Mr. Trump, a Republican, and the incumbent, Joe Biden, a Democrat.

If convicted, Mr. Trump would be the first major party candidate to run for president as a convicted felon. No law prevents him from doing so.

Judge Merchan also denied a defense request that Mr. Trump be excused from trial next Thursday so he could attend Supreme Court oral arguments on immunity claims he raised in another of his criminal cases.

“Arguing before the Supreme Court is a big deal,” Justice Merchan said, before adding: “A trial in the New York Supreme Court… is also a big deal. I’ll see it here next week.”

Legend, Trump supporters in New York

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jack colman

With a penchant for words, jack began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class.After interning at the New York Times, jack landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim.Though writing is his passion, jack also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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