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Trump back in court as jury takes shape

Messenger Online

Published: 22:27, 18 April 2024

Trump back in court as jury takes shape

Photo : Collected

Donald Trump was back in court Thursday for his unprecedented criminal trial, with six jurors already chosen and the New York judge aiming to schedule opening arguments at the start of next week.

Trump accused of falsifying business records on the eve of his 2016 election victory while covering up an embarrassing alleged affair with a porn star- motorcade to the Manhattan courthouse from his luxury apartment building.

Wearing a blue tie, he took his seat, frowning as defence attorneys bustled around him, setting up for the day.

The criminal trial, expected to last six to eight weeks, is the first ever for a former US president and comes as Trump is taking on President Joe Biden in a bid to make a shock return to the White House in November.

The Republican faces three other criminal cases, including far more serious charges of attempting to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden, but these have been repeatedly delayed.

Trump, who pleaded not guilty in New York, has been ordered by Judge Juan Merchan to attend every day, forcing the scandal-tainted real estate tycoon and hard-right populist to exchange the campaign trail for the unglamorous confines of a rundown courthouse.

For now, all the action centres on picking 12 jurors and six reserves to sit in judgment on one of the most famous and controversial men in the country less than seven months from election day. A unanimous verdict will be required to convict Trump.

Seven had been successfully picked by Tuesday- following vetting by defence and prosecution lawyers -- but on Thursday one asked to be excused, saying that on reflection she could not be impartial.

Merchan said he thinks opening arguments could begin as early as Monday. Warned by judge - The reality that Trump is no longer in control of his image -- or fate -- while in court is something that the former president, a born showman who has constantly flouted the norms and rules of political life, has rarely experienced.

The judge has made it clear he will tolerate none of Trump's habitual grandstanding, sternly warning him earlier this week when he began to mutter and gesture towards prospective jurors.

"I will not have any jurors intimidated in this courtroom," Merchan said. Merchan has also warned Trump against intimidating people connected to the case on social media.

The judge scheduled a hearing next week to consider whether Trump should already be held in contempt for violating a partial gag order. And jurors will remain anonymous to protect them from possible bribery or attack, though the selection process has already revealed much information about them, raising fears that they could be identified. 

Jury difficulties- On Monday, more than half of the first batch of 96 candidates were excused after signalling they could not be impartial. Then on Tuesday, prospective jurors were grilled on their media consumption, political donations and education.

Trump appeared to eye those 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.

Candidates were then asked about their social media posts -- with several posts critical of Trump read out to the court. One juror was excused for previously calling for Trump to be "locked up."

If convicted, Trump would potentially face prison, but legal observers say fines would be more likely.

Messenger/Sajib

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