Opening statements in Trump’s historic trial set to begin Monday after tense day of jury selection


Donald Trump’s historic criminal trial is set to begin opening arguments next week as the final jury members are seated, on a dramatic day that left two prospective jurors in tears and an appeals court judge denying Trump’s request for a stay , a man set himself on fire in front of the courthouse.

“We will have opening statements Monday morning. The trial is about to begin,” Judge Juan Merchant said at the end of the day after successfully seating the five remaining alternate jurors.

The case, the first-ever criminal trial against a former president, will be heard by a panel of 12 jurors and a total of six alternates. It is expected to last about six weeks.

The five finalists selected Friday include an unemployed married woman who loves the arts and describes herself as apolitical, an audio professional, a contract specialist, a clothing company executive and a construction company project manager . Jury selection took four days to find 18 jurors.

Around the same time, the judge announced that “we have a full jury” in the courtroom after a man set himself on fire outside the courthouse earlier in the afternoon. A spokesman for the New York Police Department said the man, Max Azzarello, was from Florida and was in critical condition. Police said he appeared to be in possession of pamphlets describing a conspiracy involving cryptocurrency, which he threw away before setting himself on fire.

Later in the afternoon, Trump’s attorneys again sought an emergency stay of the trial in the state Court of Appeals. Trump’s attorney, Cliff Robert, argued that his client could not get a fair trial in Manhattan, Trump’s longtime home until he moved to Florida after he was elected president in 2016.

Steven Wu of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office countered that “last week has shown that jury selection is effective.”

“We have 18 ordinary New Yorkers ready to serve. Further delay would be unfair to them and to the public,” he argued. Shortly after, a judge denied Trump’s request for a stay.

Friday’s jury selection process was particularly heated, with some potential jurors in tears and others saying they were too anxious to serve.

The day began with the judge calling the remaining 22 potential jurors from the previous jury pool 96 people answered questions designed to show whether they could do justice to the divisive real estate mogul and Republican presidential candidate.

The first potential juror was dismissed after she said she didn’t think she could be fair. “I was really, really anxious that people knew where I was,” she told the judge. Two other potential jurors were dismissed shortly after, both telling the judge that upon further reflection, “I don’t think I could be impartial.”

Other potential jurors include a married father who said he listens to a podcast called “Order of Man,” which Apple’s website describes as a discussion about “rediscovering what it means to be a man.” Some of the podcast’s past guests include people who are outspoken supporters of Trump and highly critical of New York Attorney General Letitia James’ civil fraud case against the former president. The man, an audio expert, was chosen as one of the alternates.

Another potential juror is a married fund manager who said he did “get-out-the-vote” work for Trump’s 2016 presidential opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Trump and his attorney, Todd Branch, passed notes back and forth as jurors spoke. He was later fired after he was asked about a 2020 Facebook post in which he apparently called Trump a “devil and a sociopath.”

Former President Donald Trump waves as he returns to the courtroom with attorney Todd Branch (from left) during a recess in his criminal trial as jury selection continues in Manhattan Criminal Court on April 18, 2024 in New York City .Brendan McDermid/Pool via Getty Images

Trump seemed most interested in jurors who gave vague answers about their personal political views. When one prospective juror said they were in the Fox News audience, Trump looked up and then quickly conferred with his attorney, Todd Branch.

Another potential juror, a woman, became emotional after revealing she had spent two years in prison on drug-related charges, but said she could be “fair and impartial.”

Merchant, who accused reporters during his morning break Thursday of revealing too much information about potential jurors, said the woman had shared “very personal things about her life” and was “very brave.” “I just want to encourage the media to be kind. Please be kind to this guy,” the judge said. He later fired her, saying she needed a release certificate to be eligible to continue serving. On the way out, she shouted happily: “Good luck!”

After the jurors left, the District Attorney’s Office began questioning the jurors individually. One woman revealed that her father was a lifelong friend of Trump ally turned critic Chris Christie when prosecutor Susan Hoffinger asked her a question about evidence in the case. She burst into tears at the innocuous question of responsibility. “I’m feeling very stressed and anxious right now. I’m so sorry,” she replied through tears. “I thought I could do this,” she said, adding, “I didn’t want anyone who felt that way to judge my case.” She was fired.

After Hoffinger’s questioning, Trump attorney Susan Necheles asked a potential juror who started her own business how she would assess the witness’s credibility. The woman then asked to speak to the judge, saying she was “feeling anxious and self-doubt” from Necheles’ questions.

Necheles later asked another woman – who has previously said she was a victim of sexual assault – if she would speak out against Trump now that women outside of the case have accused him of sexual assault. She said she wouldn’t have minded putting the charges aside, but the judge ultimately forgave her, saying: “It’s better to err on the side of caution.”

Another man said he had some policy differences with Trump but thought he was “generally great.” He was not selected for the jury.

On his way to court in the morning, Trump again complained that the case against him was “unfair” and that a partial gag order that prevented him from lashing out at witnesses, prosecutors, court staff and jurors was not “constitutional.” “Other people can say whatever they want to me. They can say whatever they want. They can keep making up lies and everything else. They lie. They’re real scum. But you know what? I’m not allowed to Talk,” he told reporters.

Prosecutors this week asked a judge to fine Trump and hold him in contempt for social media posts they said violated a gag order. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Tuesday.

The main team consists of 12 members, consisting of 7 men and 5 women, including two lawyers, a teacher, a retired wealth manager, a product development manager, a security engineer, a software engineer, A speech therapist and a physical therapist. The foreman — a juror who is essentially the leader and spokesperson of the jury — is a married man who works in sales and gets his news from The New York Times, MSNBC and Fox News.

The only alternate selected Thursday was a woman who works as an asset manager.

Shortly after the final jurors were selected, Trump took to social media to express the speed of the process, claiming the judge was “‘pushing’ me at breakneck speed to fully satisfy his ‘friends.'”

Later in the day, Merchin held what is known as the Sandoval hearing. This type of hearing is intended to provide defendants with an understanding of the range of issues prosecutors may face during cross-examination so that they can make informed decisions about whether to bring witnesses forward to defend themselves.

As Trump left court on Friday, he was asked if he still planned to testify. He said yes.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office revealed in a court filing that it wants to question Trump about several matters, including a $464 million civil judgment against him and his companies for fraud totaling $88 million. The $100 million verdict and liability for sexual abuse and defamation in a lawsuit filed by author E. Jean Carroll are among a number of other unfavorable court rulings over the past few years.

Trump has denied wrongdoing in all cases and is appealing both the fraud conviction and the Carroll decision.

Prosecutors said they hope to present these findings “to impeach the defendant’s credibility” if he testifies.

Discussing the fraud findings, prosecutor Matthew Colangelo told the judge that for the district attorney, “it’s hard to imagine anything more immediate than the judge’s findings of continued and repeated fraud.” Ask about Trump.” Illegal. ”

Trump’s attorney, Emile Bove, countered that prosecutors should not have broached the topic at all because Trump’s appeal is still pending. He made a similar argument to the district attorney’s argument that they should be allowed to ask the judge about his finding that he lied on the witness stand during his fraud trial and violated the case’s gag order.

“Is it your position that because the case is on appeal or may be appealed, it cannot be used?” Merchant asked the attorney. “Not necessarily,” Boff replied.

The judge said he would rule on the dispute Monday morning.

Trump said last week that he “absolutely” plans to testify but is under no obligation to do so.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass, who was asked by Nechels at the end of the day who the district attorney’s first witness would be, said that given Trump’s continued criticism of some witnesses on social media, Despite the partial hoax, they wouldn’t tell Trump’s team the identity of the man until Sunday. “If this should be posted on Twitter, that would be the last time we offer that courtesy,” Stanglas said.

Merchan called the district attorney’s stance “understandable” and told Necheles “I’m not going to force them to do anything.”

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records and faces up to four years in prison if convicted.

Bragg accused Trump of falsifying records to hide payments he made to former lawyer Michael Cohen to repay a $130,000 payment he made to adult film actor Stormy Daniels at the end of his 2016 presidential campaign. Daniels claims she had sexual contact with Trump in 2006.

The DA’s office also said that as part of a scheme to boost Trump, National Enquirer publisher American Media Inc. paid $150,000 to model and actress Karen McDougall, who appeared in “Flowers magazine, claiming that she had a nine-month relationship with Trump before he took office. .

Trump also denied having a sexual relationship with McDougal.


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