12 Jurors and one alternate were picked for Donald Trump's hush money trial.  Credit: Ed Quinn

A full jury of 12 New Yorkers was seated Thursday in the historic hush-money trial of ex-President Donald Trump, following a drama-filled day in the Manhattan courtroom that saw two initial members of the panel dismissed.

“We have our jury,” Supreme Court Justice Juan M. Merchan said when the 12th juror was picked. “Let's pick our alternates.”

The jury of seven men and five women who will decide the fate of the Republican Party's presumptive presidential nominee on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, includes a teacher, two lawyers, an investment banker, a speech therapist and someone who works for an e-commerce company, among other careers.

One juror who was selected Thursday said he follows the former president's posts on his social media platform “Truth Social.” Another selected juror had harsh words for the ex-president.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • A full jury of 12 New Yorkers was seated Thursday in the historic hush-money trial of former President Donald Trump after two initial members of the panel were dismissed.
  • The jury of seven men and five women includes a teacher, two lawyers, an investment banker, a speech therapist and someone who works for an e-commerce company, among other careers.
  • Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records. Prosecutors said he directed his personal attorney, Lawrence native Michael Cohen, to make a $130,000 hush-money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

“He seems very selfish and self-serving,” said Juror No. 11, a woman originally from California who lives in upper Manhattan. “I don’t really appreciate that from any public servant.”

Trump’s defense attempted to have her removed from the pool, but she said despite her personal feelings, she believed she could be fair and impartial. Merchan refused to remove her.

One alternate juror was also seated Thursday. The jury selection process will continue Friday to seat the five remaining alternates. Opening statements could begin as early as Monday.

Trump, after court concluded, decried the trial as a “hoax” and complained about the temperature of the courtroom, which he referred to as “freezing.” Merchan had earlier acknowledged the courtroom was “chilly” when lead Trump defense attorney Todd Blanche asked for the thermostat to be turned up.

“I just wanted to say that I'm supposed to be in New Hampshire, I'm supposed to be in Georgia. … I'm supposed to be a hundred different places campaigning,” Trump said. "But I'm here all day on a trial that really is a very unfair trial.”

Although Thursday began with setbacks for the jury selection process with the dismissal of two jurors, it picked up quickly in the afternoon with the seating of the full panel.

An oncology nurse, who was seated as Juror No. 2 on Tuesday along with six others, alerted the court Wednesday that she received messages from family and friends questioning whether she was on the jury, after news reports featured descriptions of jurors' careers.

The potential Trump jurors have only been identified in open court by a code containing a letter and numbers, in order to keep their identities secret from the public.

The names of jurors in criminal cases are usually public, but Merchan had ordered the jury to be anonymous to prevent any potential harassment of jurors in the criminal case.

Juror No. 2, a young woman with dark hair, called the court Wednesday to register her concerns and was told to report to the courtroom in Manhattan Supreme Court on Thursday. Merchan dismissed the juror after she told the judge she “definitely has concerns now” after “aspects of my identity” were publicly reported.

Merchan later ordered journalists who are observing the proceedings to refrain from reporting specific details about jurors' employers or work history.

In the early afternoon, Juror No. 4, an older man who works in information technology, was also dismissed after prosecutors questioned whether he was forthcoming on his jury questionnaire form.

“We did discover an article that a person with the same name [as Juror No. 4] had been arrested in Westchester for tearing down political advertisements,” said prosecutor Joshua Steinglass, who added that after conducting “additional research … It seems to be the juror’s wife was previously accused of or involved in a corruption inquiry” that ended with “a deferred prosecution agreement with the district attorney’s office.”

Merchan dismissed Juror No. 4 early after he spoke with the judge and lawyers in the case in a side bar conference that was not audible to journalists in the room. The exact reason for the dismissal of Juror No. 4 is unknown.

Following the first juror dismissal, another 96 potential jurors were brought in the courtroom Thursday morning to continue the process of selecting a jury of 12 and six alternates. The pool shrank rapidly when 48 were excused after saying they could not be fair and impartial.

Adam Shlahet, director of the Brendan Moore Trial Advocacy Center at Fordham University School of Law, said he thought ending Thursday with 12 jurors was “pretty remarkable.”

“It’s going surprisingly quickly because Judge Merchan has made it clear that feelings about Donald Trump aren’t disqualifying if you can separate those feelings and look at the evidence,” said Shlahet, a former defense attorney and prosecutor. “In any other trial, having an opinion on the defendant would likely disqualify a person.”

Richard Klein, a law professor at Touro Law Center, said while there’s no specific deadline, Merchan would want to make sure to adhere closely to his six-week time frame for the trial.

“This judge is going to be very careful, however. He’s going to continue to exercise caution here,” said Klein, a former defense attorney. “It’s not uncommon that cases get reversed on appeal because of the jury selection process.”

Manhattan prosecutors also argued to Merchan Thursday that Trump had violated the judge's gag order against him publicly disparaging any of the potential witnesses in the case, saying he violated the order seven times since Monday. A hearing is set on the matter for Tuesday.

The most recent violation, the prosecution cited, was a social media post that Trump's account posted, which quoted conservative commentator Jesse Waters saying the court is “catching undercover liberal activists lying to the judge.”

Trump defense attorney Emil Bove disputed the prosecution's assertions, saying the posts “do not establish any willful violations” of the judge's gag order, and that it brings to light “some of the ambiguities” of the order. Bove also said posting someone else's comments doesn't violate the gag order.

Trump, the 45th president and prospective GOP nominee for the 2024 presidential election, has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records.

Prosecutors said he directed his personal attorney, Lawrence native Michael Cohen, to make a $130,000 hush-money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels. Prosecutors have said the payment was illegally recorded as legal services as part of a retainer agreement, but neither the retainer nor the legal services existed.

Prosecutors said Trump directed the payment in order to prevent Daniels from telling her story publicly just weeks before the 2016 presidential election and potentially hurting his chances at victory. Trump won the election.

Vincent Southerland, associate professor of clinical law at NYU School of Law, said with an unprecedented case such as this one “jurors would have an opportunity to witness history” but attorneys are looking beyond that and would want people who have the ability to read documents and parse through details to come to a conclusion.

“Jury selection is far more art than it is science. It’s way more subjective than objective. And so much of it is your instinct and gut about how that juror might view the evidence. It’s an often-overlooked part of trial practice but is one of the most important part of the trial,” Southerland said.

Before Thursday's proceedings concluded, Blanche asked for the names of the first three prosecution witnesses slated to testify.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass refused.

“Mr. Trump has been tweeting about the witnesses,” Steinglass said. “We’re not telling them who the witnesses are.”

Blanche appeared mystified, as it is customary in criminal trials for prosecutors to disclose the order in which witnesses are expected to testify, and offered to “commit to the court and the people that President Trump will not Truth about any witness.”

Merchan countered: “I don’t think you can make that representation.”

Blanche offered to keep the witness names secret from his own client, but Merchan was not moved.

“I’m not going to order them to do it, no. I’ll see you tomorrow morning,” Merchan said.

With Candice Ferrette

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