Judge Warns Trump Over Juror Intimidation, Six Jurors Picked For Trial

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Former US president Donald Trump returns to the courtroom after a break

The judge in Donald Trump’s historic criminal trial warned the Republican presidential hopeful against intimidating jurors on Tuesday as six panelists were chosen with unexpected speed following questioning by both sides.

No other US ex-president has faced a criminal trial and the pressure is high on both sides to get a dozen jurors able to sit in judgment of a former president running to return to the White House this November.

After a preliminary phase in which prospective jurors could opt out if they felt unable to be impartial or had extenuating circumstances, defense attorneys and prosecutors began detailed questioning of an initial panel of 12.

Six jurors had been accepted and sworn in in by the end of Tuesday, and told they need not return to court until Monday, when the judge said opening statements would begin.

For Trump to be convicted of his alleged fraud in a scheme to cover up an embarrassing alleged extramarital encounter with a porn star, the jury must render a unanimous verdict. Even one dissenting voice would see him walk free.

The process, which had been expected to take as long as two weeks, appeared to pick up pace on Tuesday, with six other jurors — and another six alternates — still to be selected.

Judge Juan Merchan cautioned Trump at one point that his muttering was audible to one juror who faced scrutiny over social media posts.

“I will not have any jurors intimidated in this courtroom,” Merchan said, requesting the defense lawyers speak to Trump.

Trump, 77, has been ordered by Merchan to be in court daily, putting a major hitch in his campaigning plans.

“I should be right now in Pennsylvania and Florida — in many other states, North Carolina, Georgia — campaigning,” Trump said in angry remarks outside the court Tuesday. He called Merchan “Trump-hating.”

Meanwhile, Biden spent the day touting his economic policies in a visit to his birthplace in Scranton, Pennsylvania on Tuesday — a key swing state Biden narrowly carried in the 2020 election.

Merchan has warned Trump against repeating his frequent past attempts to turn hearings into impromptu campaign appearances with outbursts at witnesses and staff, as well as tirades on social media.

The judge has already scheduled a hearing next week to consider whether Trump should be held in contempt for violating a partial gag order restricting him from attacking individuals connected to the case.

“The attitude of the undecided voter to all this is uncertain, but possibly they will be dissuaded by it,” Columbia Law School professor John Coffee told AFP.

Illustrating the extraordinary tension, potential jurors have been told they will remain anonymous to the public throughout the proceedings. Merchan said this is to protect them from possible bribery or physical harm.

On Monday, more than half of the first batch of 96 prospects were excused after signaling they could not be impartial.

On Tuesday, a panel of 12 prospective jurors and six alternates were grilled on their media consumption, political donations and education.

A young Black woman in the pool of candidates said that, as a person of color, she has friends with strong opinions on Trump.

“You can’t judge him because he speaks his mind,” said another prospective juror.

A third jury candidate said he found Trump “fascinating and mysterious,” prompting Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche to respond, “Umm, alright. Thank you.”

Trump appeared to eye prospective jurors in the jury box as they each answered ‘yes’ to a prosecutor’s question about whether they would be able to return a guilty verdict.

Prospective jurors were then asked individually about social media posts.

Trump faces three other criminal cases centered on his possession of top-secret documents after leaving office and his unprecedented attempts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden.

Those trials are arguably weightier in content, but Trump has succeeded in prompting continued delays, meaning they may not start before the November 5 election.

In New York, the Republican is accused of falsifying business records while covering up an alleged extramarital sexual encounter with adult film actress Stormy Daniels to shield his first election campaign, in 2016, from last-minute upheaval.

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Donald Trump’s New York criminal trial adds a seismic twist to the already tense November US presidential election
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Trump's main legal cases
Trump’s main legal cases
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Graphic showing the main legal cases Donald Trump is facing
Graphic showing the main legal cases Donald Trump is facing
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Former US president Donald Trump attends the second day of his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments
Former US president Donald Trump attends the second day of his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments
AFP

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