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First 7 jurors seated in Trump trial as judge warns former president about comments

First 7 jurors selected in "hush money" trial
First 7 jurors selected in Trump "hush money" trial 02:22

Seven Manhattan residents were selected to serve on the jury in former President Donald Trump's criminal trial on Tuesday, as lawyers for both sides clashed over which potential jurors should be seated and the judge warned the defendant to remain quiet.

During the selection process, the anonymous members of the jury were known only by letters and numbers, like B400 and B280. There are four men and three women, ranging from young to middle-aged. They include a salesman, a nurse, two lawyers, an IT consultant, a teacher and a software engineer. Three grew up elsewhere — in Ireland, Oregon and Puerto Rico.

They all answered questions about their background and their opinion of Trump before they were chosen to serve on the jury for one of the highest-profile trials in American history. 

One member, the nurse, said she "[doesn't] really have" an opinion of the former president. She promised that she is "here for my civic duty" and "to listen to the facts." The IT consultant said, "My family is my hobby," and admitted to finding Trump "fascinating and mysterious."

The teacher said she has friends with strong opinions of Trump, but added that she's not very interested in politics or the news. "President Trump speaks his mind, and I'd rather that than someone who's in office who you don't know what they're thinking," she said. She was not aware that Trump faces criminal charges in other cases.

The jurors were advised by Merchan to plan on returning for opening statements on Monday, April 22. Merchan said the court would let them know if that plan changes.

At least five more, plus another half dozen alternates, must still be chosen. Roughly 80 people have been excused since questioning began Monday. Most of them said they could not be impartial in deciding a case involving Trump. Others were dismissed based on their answers to questions about their political beliefs or social media posts.

Day 2 of jury selection

Six of the jurors were selected and sworn in together earlier in the afternoon. A seventh was added after further questioning of another batch of potential members. The jury selection process will resume on Thursday, since the trial is not meeting on Wednesdays.

A dispute over one potential juror's Facebook posts showing celebrations after Trump lost the 2020 election prompted audible comments from the former president on Tuesday. That earned him an admonishment from Judge Juan Merchan, who told Trump attorney Todd Blanche to speak to his client.

"Mr. Blanche, your client was audibly uttering something. He was audible, gesturing and speaking in the direction of the juror. I won't tolerate that," Merchan said. "I will not have any jurors intimidated in this courtroom. I want to make that crystal clear."

Blanche had asked the judge to dismiss the juror over the video posts, which showed people cheering in the streets of New York. The woman told the court that she wanted to capture a "New York City celebratory moment," likening the cheers to nightly celebrations for health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. She insisted she could remain impartial during the trial. 

A court sketch showing former President Donald Trump and his attorneys during jury selection in his New York trial on Tuesday, April 16, 2024.
A court sketch showing former President Donald Trump and his attorneys during jury selection in his New York trial on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. Christine Cornell

The judge initially said she provided reasonable explanations for both posts, but she was ultimately dismissed. He also excused another man who had posted about Trump's "unlawful travel ban" and wrote "get him out and lock him up."

Those disputes came after prosecutors and defense attorneys got their first chance to directly question potential jurors who made it past a first round of screening. Earlier, Joshua Steinglass, a member of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office, told the jurors that the case "has nothing to do with your politics."

"We don't suggest you need to have been living under a rock for the last eight years, or the last 30 years," he said. "We don't expect you not to have heard about this, or not to have discussed this case with friends. What we do need is for you to keep an open mind."

The first batch of potential jurors were sworn in on Monday after pretrial arguments over evidence and rules for the proceedings. Roughly two thirds of the group of 96 New Yorkers were quickly dismissed, with most of them saying they wouldn't be able to be fair and impartial in the trial. Others were excused for various other reasons. The slow process of identifying suitable jurors is likely to last at least a week. 

More jurors were sent home throughout the day Tuesday. One woman was dismissed with flu-like symptoms. Several more said they couldn't be fair or impartial, including a man who moved to Manhattan from Texas and said he got his news from Fox News and Barstool Sports, among other sources. He said it was "going to be hard for me to be impartial," since many of his family and friends growing up were Republicans. Merchan thanked him for his candor and excused him.

The "hush money" case

Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, is charged with 34 state felony counts of falsification of business records related to a "hush money" payment his attorney made to adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges, claiming the prosecution is part of a plot by Democrats aimed at preventing him from retaking the White House. The case is the first of four criminal prosecutions against Trump to make it to trial.

Entering the courtroom on Tuesday, Trump called the trial a "sham" and said the charges should have been dismissed.

"This is a trial that should never happen. It should have been thrown out a long time ago," he told reporters.

At several points during Monday morning's arguments, Trump appeared to fall asleep at the defense table, his chin dropping to his chest briefly. In one instance, he was stirred awake by his attorney. He appeared to doze off at several points again on Tuesday.

The trial is expected to last between six and eight weeks, convening every weekday except Wednesdays, with some shortened days for the Passover holiday. Trump is required to attend. The schedule severely limits Trump's ability to hit the campaign trail, which he has cited to support his claims of political bias. 

"I should be right now in Pennsylvania, in Florida, in many other states — North Carolina, Georgia — campaigning," Trump said Tuesday.

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