Trump’s Trial Now Has 12 Jurors—and One Angry Man

Jabin Botsford/Reuters
Jabin Botsford/Reuters

Despite the troubles plaguing Donald Trump’s first criminal trial in New York City, the process reached a milestone Thursday afternoon when the judge filled all 12 seats of the jury that will determine his fate.

But the slog is far from over, as prosecutors and defense lawyers must now screen dozens of other jurors to pick the half-dozen New Yorkers who will serve as alternates during the next month or two—and might not even make it into the deliberation room.

The new additions to the jury cut a diverse slice of the Big Apple:

  • a married investment banker who admitted he follows key witness Michael Cohen on Twitter and reads the irascible anti-Trump online personality @MuellerSheWrote, but assured he wouldn’t be partial to their views,

  • a California-raised security engineer who likes to spend most of his free time with his kids or working with his hands, doing woodworking or sheet metal work,

  • a Panamanian man who spent decades as a wealth manager,

  • a speech therapist who said she teaches for the New York City public school system,

  • a man who left Ohio for Manhattan and now works at an eyewear company,

  • a product development manager who called Trump “very selfish and self-serving” as a politician but said she can get past that to judge him fairly as just another man in court,

  • a physical therapist who said she takes pride in being a “knowledgeable voter,” and

  • a British investment analyst who lives with her boyfriend in the city and would serve as the first alternate juror.

Friday will now be dedicated to sorting through many other candidates to fill the five alternate slots still open.

The judge said he intends to start the trial on Monday morning, but already Trump is in for a surprise: He won’t know who the next witness is—because the judge doesn’t trust him not to paint a target on their back.

In a brief exchange at the end of the day Thursday, prosecutor Joshua Steinglass said his team would under no circumstances share the names of their intended witnesses. In response, Trump lawyer Todd Blanche tried to cut a deal.

“What if I commit that President Trump won’t ‘truth’ about any witness?” he asked.

“I don’t think you can make that representation,” New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan shot back.

That interaction was an inevitable result of the chaos that plagued the start of the day, when two jurors bowed out after details of their personal lives revealed in court drew public attention—and potentially a target on their backs.

At the start of the day, a nurse slotted as “juror number two” said details reported by news outlets allowed her to be identified by friends, scaring her enough to want to avoid serving on the most significant trial in the country’s history.

Then, at noon, a Puerto Rican IT consultant chosen to be “juror number four” held a private meeting with the judge, prosecutors, and defense attorneys to apparently share similar concerns.

New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan later said he wouldn’t overstate the man’s feelings but said “he expressed annoyance at how much” is out there about him.

That followed an exchange earlier in the day that set the tone for Day Three of the former president’s criminal trial, when the nurse discussed her fears with the judge.

“I definitely have concerns now… about being in public. Yesterday alone, I had friends, colleagues push things to my phone questioning my identity as a juror. I don’t believe at this point that I can be fair and unbiased and let the outside influences not affect my decision to be in the courtroom,” she told the judge Thursday morning.

“Thank you. I’m sorry,” New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan replied. “You’re excused.”

This trial is proceeding with an anonymous jury—known to the former president and prosecutors but unidentified by name to the general public. It was a security measure put in place by the judge to deal with the heightened political tensions in the case, much of it inflamed by Trump’s own violent rhetoric and framing of the case as a treasonous “assault on America.”

The judge blamed journalists, whom he called irresponsible for being too detailed in their reports about the answers given by potential jurors as they were screened to serve on the panel.

Merchan lamented how “we’ve just lost what probably could have been a very big juror in this case,” citing that she had detailed being “very intimidated by the press.”

“There’s a reason why this is an anonymous jury and we’re taking the measures that were taken. And it kind of defeats the purpose of that when so much information is put out there that it is very, very easy for us to identify who the jurors are,” the judge said.

He then asked journalists to be reasonable—and use common sense.

“I’m directing that the press simply apply common sense and refrain from writing about physical descriptions. It’s just not necessary. It serves no purpose,” he said. “There’s no need for anyone to mention that one of the jurors had an Irish accent. I don’t see how that advanced any interest whatsoever.”

Justice Merchan then “directed” journalists sitting in the courtroom and an overflow room receiving a video and audio feed to not publicly report the answers to the third question on the jury questionnaire, which ask the person’s current employer and the company’s size. In recent days, those details were enough to allow news organizations to quickly identify several potential jurors who run their own small businesses or work at well known companies.

“If you can’t do that, if you can’t stick to that, we’ll have to see what else we can do to ensure the jurors remain safe,” he warned.

The start of court on Thursday then immediately turned to the actual threat fueling these fears: Trump’s own intimidation tactics.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office re-upped its request for the judge to hold Trump in contempt of court for ignoring a gag order preventing him from speaking publicly about witnesses or jurors, pointing out how the former president continues to lash out against his ex-lawyer-turned-witness Michael Cohen and his anger about being subjected to a jury in largely liberal New York City.

Christopher Conroy, senior advisor to the DA’s investigation division, told Merchan that Trump had “violated the order seven more times” since only Tuesday, ignoring the judge’s subsequent warnings.

“It’s ridiculous. It has to stop,” Conroy said.

The prosecutor noted how Trump took to Truth Social to share a New York Post article about Cohen to question his credibility, only to have his 2024 Republican presidential campaign share it later that evening. Conroy also noted that Trump shared yet another article questioning Cohen’s credibility on Wednesday. But the prosecutor gave additional weight to Trump’s post last night on his own social media website, in which Trump quoted Fox News host Jesse Watters and wrote, “They are catching undercover Liberal Activists lying to the Judge in order to get on the Trump Jury.”

“This is the most disturbing post, especially in light of this morning,” Conroy said. “These statements all violated your order.”

Conroy said the DA’s office still wants the judge to impose a monetary fine on Trump, but he alluded to a harsher penalty—which could mean jail time—when he said, “We’re still considering our options depending on how [this] goes.”

One of Trump’s defense lawyers, Emil Bove, tried to reason with the judge that Trump wasn’t technically violating the gag order by merely repeating what others have said. Bove claimed the situation “brings to light some of the ambiguities in the order.”

“President Trump’s responses are political in nature. They’re intended to defend against what Mr. Cohen is saying… the gag order didn’t prohibit responding to political attacks,” Bove said. “One other thing. Only recently... has the DA taken the position that reposting statements by others violates the gag order.”

The judge said he’ll consider the matter after reviewing written legal arguments on both sides, perhaps as early as Friday.

“I look forward to seeing that,” Merchan said, then allowed potential jurors in the room to continue jury selection.

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