Updated April 16th, 2024 at 07:24 IST

Trump's Hush-For-Money Trial: Potential Jurors Dismissed After Saying They Couldn't Remain Impartial

In an unprecedented situation, the hunt for an impartial juror still remains elusive among hundreds of New Yorkers, who were called for jury selection on Monday

Reported by: Digital Desk
Former US President Donald Trump arriving in a New York court for his hush money case. | Image:AP
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New York: Former US President Donald Trump's historic hush-money trial case got underway on Monday without any jurors getting selected as nearly 50 of them said that they couldn't give a fair hearing, according to reports. After the jurors stated that they couldn't remain impartial, they were dismissed. The process of selecting jurors will resume on Tuesday. In an unprecedented situation, the hunt for an impartial juror still remains elusive among hundreds of New Yorkers, who were called for jury selection on Monday.

Among the 34 of 96 jurors left from the first pool, the lawyers on both sides will scrutinise the remaining lot on their news consumption, personal lives and their social media habits, trying to get a clear view of any particular biases that might affect the judgement.

The first criminal trial of any former U.S. president began as Trump vies to reclaim the White House, creating a remarkable split-screen spectacle of the presumptive Republican nominee spending his days as a criminal defendant while simultaneously campaigning for office. He's blended those roles over the last year by presenting himself to supporters, on the campaign trail and on social media, as a target of politically motivated prosecutions designed to derail his candidacy.

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“It's a scam. It's a political witch hunt. It continues, and it continues forever,” Trump said after exiting the courtroom, where he sat at the defense table with his lawyers.

After a norm-shattering presidency shadowed by years of investigations, the trial amounts to a reckoning for Trump, who faces four indictments charging him with crimes ranging from hoarding classified documents to plotting to overturn an election. Yet the political stakes are less clear because a conviction would not preclude him from becoming president and because the allegations in this case date back years and are seen as less grievous than the conduct behind the three other indictments.

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The day began with pretrial arguments — including over a potential fine for Trump — before moving in the afternoon into jury selection, where the parties will decide who among them might be picked to determine the legal fate of the former, and potentially future, American president.

After the first members of the jury pool, 96 in all, were summoned into the courtroom, Trump craned his neck to look back at them, whispering to his lawyer as they entered the jury box.

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“You are about to participate in a trial by jury. The system of trial by jury is one of the cornerstones of our judicial system,” Judge Juan Merchan told the jurors. “The name of this case is the People of the State of New York vs. Donald Trump.” No matter the outcome, Trump is determined to benefit from the proceedings, casting the case, and his indictments elsewhere, as a broad “weaponisation of law enforcement” by Democratic prosecutors and officials. He maintains they are orchestrating sham charges in hopes of impeding his presidential run.

He's lambasted judges and prosecutors for years, a pattern of attacks that continued Monday as he entered court Monday after calling the case an “assault on America." “This is political persecution. This is a persecution like never before,” he said.

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Earlier Monday, the judge denied a defence request to recuse himself from the case after Trump's lawyers claimed he had a conflict of interest. He also said prosecutors could not play for the jury the 2005 “Access Hollywood” recording in which Trump was captured discussing grabbing women sexually without their permission. However, prosecutors will be allowed to question witnesses about the recording, which became public in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign.

Prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney's office also asked for Merchan to fine Trump USD 3,000 over social media posts they said violated the judge's gag order barring him from attacking witnesses. Last week, he used his Truth Social platform to call his former lawyer Michael Cohen and the adult film actor Stormy Daniels “two sleaze bags who have, with their lies and misrepresentations, cost our Country dearly!” Trump lawyer Todd Blanche maintained Trump was simply responding to the witnesses' statements.

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“It's not as if President Trump is going out and targeting individuals. He is responding to salacious, repeated vehement attacks by these witnesses,” Blanche said.

Merchan setting a hearing for next week on the request.

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Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. Prosecutors say the alleged fraud was part of an effort to keep salacious — and, Trump says, bogus — stories about his sex life from emerging during his 2016 campaign.

The charges center on USD 130,000 in payments that Trump's company made to Cohen. He paid that sum on Trump's behalf to keep Daniels from going public, a month before the election, with her claims of a sexual encounter with the married mogul a decade earlier.

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Prosecutors say the payments to Cohen were falsely logged as legal fees in order to cloak their actual purpose. Trump's lawyers say the disbursements indeed were legal expenses, not a cover-up.

(With inputs from agencies)

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Published April 16th, 2024 at 07:24 IST