A Jury Of His Peers? You Must Be Joking.

File photo. Donald Trump in 2019 wearing a suit and striped tie.
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On the first day of Donald Trump’s trial for making blackmail payments by illegal means, the biggest problem was selecting an impartial jury, and dozens of people who had been called for jury duty were sent home in a matter of minutes after they told the judge they could not possibly be impartial in a case involving the controversial former president.

It is probably going to take several days to find a dozen spare jurors plus a few spares who can either set aside any prejudices against Trump, or are so ill-informed that they have never heard of him. Probably hundreds of jurors will have be given questionaires and then asked questions.

Trump himself clearly does not believe he can get a fair trial, and complained on his Truth Social platform last week, “No such thing has ever happened in our Country before. On Monday I will be forced to sit, GAGGED, before a HIGHLY CONFLICTED & CORRUPT JUDGE, whose hatred for me has no bounds.”

However Trump was in court yesterday and was not gagged.

Donald Trump is accused of falsifying his business records to disguise a hush-money payment made shortly before the 2016 election to an pornography star Stormy Danielswith whom he allegedly had a sexual encounter that some people describe as an affair.

In a second instance, the indictment alleges that a former Playmate of the Year, Karen McDougal, says she had a monthslong affair with Trump and was paid $150,000 by a tabloid publisher who bought the rights to her story and then, at Trump’s urging, killed the article.

It will be up to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and Mr Trump’s legal team to find 12 New Yorkers capable of setting aside their feelings about Mr Trump to give him a fair trial.

Mr Trump’s lawyers have already complained that the city’s Manhattan borough, comprised predominantly of Democrats (political oppenents of Mr. Trump), will not allow for an impartial jury.

And legal experts agree it will prove to be a tough call.

“There’s nobody in the country who doesn’t have an opinion one way or another,” former Manhattan prosecutor Jeremy Saland told the BBC.

“But those in New York have been exposed to Donald Trump and his father and children for literally generations…”

“A jury should be fair no matter what, listen to the evidence and hold prosecutors to the burden,” he says.

“So no easy task.”

The jury process involves several stages that could last well over a week, former Brooklyn and Manhattan prosecutors told reporters at the BBC.

Because of the high-profile nature of the trial, as many as 500 people from Manhattan and neighbouring Roosevelt Island could be chosen as prospective jurors.

From this group, the defence and the prosecution – overseen by Justice Juan Merchan – will select 12 and several alternates to be seated.

Those jurors will be anonymous to the public, but Mr Trump’s team and prosecutors will know their identities.

Jurors who are unable to participate in the six-week trial because of childcare obligations or travel restrictions will also be dismissed, says Julie Rendelman, a former Brooklyn prosecutor.

On Monday, one man was dismissed by the judge after he said he might miss his child’s wedding.

However, experts say that by far the  biggest challenge will be removing those who cannot be impartial.

This is complicated, because although the case is, strictly speaking, about a financial misdemeanor, many people perceive Trump’s prosection as a political payback for his role in the attempted coup of January 2020.

“Everyone, anyone, no matter who you are, no matter whether you wear blue or red goggles, needs to give the former president the same rights that any of us do, which is that he’s innocent until proven guilty,” says Mr Saland, the former Manhattan prosecutor.

To start weeding out those who are biased, prosecutors and the defence team have begun analysing questionnaires filled out by the prospective jurors.

Judge Merchan has stressed that jurors will not be dismissed based on political affiliation alone. “The issue is if the juror can be impartial and can reach a verdict consistent with the law,” he said in February.

But Mr Trump’s lawyers have already sparred with the defence about what exactly this means.

Source: BBC News, VOA.
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