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April 15, 2024 3 min read

As Donald J. Trump’s prosecution begins, lawyers must winnow a pool of hundreds to 12 jurors who will decide his fate.

The hundreds of New Yorkers who report for jury duty Monday morning in Manhattan will embark on an experience not found in history books: They will be vetted as jurors for the trial of a former U.S. president.

The task won’t be easy. Lawyers for Donald J. Trump and prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney’s office will narrow the pool to 12 jurors and several alternates. Both sides will try to discern biases that could alter the outcome of the trial, posing dozens of questions that have been discussed and debated for weeks.

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The jurors, for their part, will be expected to answer each question honestly in an intimidating environment, just steps away from the former president, who is expected to attend much of the trial.

Who are the prospective jurors?

The jury pool is composed of Manhattanites. Beyond that, little about the group is known, even by prosecutors and defense lawyers. Both sides will use the next several days, or weeks, to find out all they can.

Because New York State does not allow juries to operate in full anonymity, the parties, including the former president, will know the jurors’ names. The lawyers will also have access to their addresses. (Mr. Trump will not).

The public may never know the jurors’ names. The judge in the case, Juan M. Merchan, granted the prosecutors’ request to withhold them.

After reading a summary of the allegations, Justice Merchan will ask the prospective jurors whether they believe they can be fair and impartial. They will also be asked if they have any scheduling conflicts that would prevent them from attending every day of the trial, which could last more than six weeks. Those who raise concerns will most likely be removed from the pool.

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The jurors who remain will all be asked the same set of questions. One by one, they will talk — briefly and vaguely — about what they do for a living, their education and their families. They will be asked where they get their news, what radio and podcasts they listen to and whether they’ve read books written by Mr. Trump or his former fixer Michael D. Cohen, who is expected to be a central witness.

Other questions will be more pointed. Jurors will be asked if they’ve ever volunteered or attended a campaign event for Mr. Trump or one of his opponents. They will also be asked to divulge feelings or opinions they have about how Mr. Trump is being treated in this case.

But the jurors will not be asked how they voted in past elections, whom they plan to vote for, whether they have made political contributions or their party registration.

Mr. Trump’s legal team and prosecutors for the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, can challenge the inclusion of prospective jurors by providing specific reasons they believe a juror cannot be fair and impartial. The judge has the final say.

Both sides will also receive a certain number of chances to remove jurors without explanation. After all of the challenged jurors are removed from the jury pool, Justice Merchan will seat the jury with those who remain.

If Mr. Trump’s behavior at previous trials is any guide, he is likely to be very involved in jury selection. In a previous defamation case, Mr. Trump was fixated on the jurors from the moment they walked into the courtroom. He pivoted in his chair to study them as they answered biographical questions. He frequently talked to his attorneys.

But Mr. Trump’s comments about the jurors in this case should start and stop in the courtroom. In addition to being ordered not to reveal their names, Mr. Trump is also subject to a gag order issued by Justice Merchan preventing him from making public statements about them.

Source: What to Know About Jury Selection in Trump’s Manhattan Criminal Case - The New York Times

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