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What did jurors in Trump’s criminal trial say they think of the former president?

todayApril 22, 2024

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(NEW YORK) — Before any jurors were seated in Donald Trump’s historic criminal trial in New York, defense lawyers seeking to whittle down the pool of prospects asked them a vital question: What do you think of the former president?

“We all know that every one of you knows President Trump,” defense attorney Todd Blanche told the potential jurors last week. “You’re not going to offend me, you’re not going to offend the Court, the People, or even President Trump by really talking about your opinion of President Trump.”

As Trump sat feet away, sandwiched by his lawyers at counsel table, some of the jurors provided frank — and at times scathing — reviews of the former president’s character and presidency.

“He just seems very selfish and self serving, so I don’t really appreciate that in any public servant,” said one prospective juror, a product development manager originally from California.

Other prospective jurors offered a more flattering view.

“President Trump speaks his mind. I would rather that in a person than someone who’s in office and you don’t know what they’re doing behind the scenes,” said a middle school teacher from Harlem.

“Being in my generation during that candidacy, there was a divide in the country; I can’t ignore that,” she said.

“However,” she said, “I never equated that to one individual.”

Both prospects were ultimately selected for the 12-person jury, with the product manager becoming Juror No. 11 and the teacher becoming Juror No. 5.

Opinions about the former president, to the extent that jurors have them, are not supposed to matter during the trial. Each of the jurors vowed to put any opinions of the former president aside when examining the evidence of the case and deciding Trump’s guilt. But attorneys on both sides acknowledged that few people live in an information vacuum.

“Even if you want to be fair, and I believe that everybody who is sitting up here wants to be fair, we are asking you to probe yourself,” defense attorney Susan Necheles asked the potential jurors. “Would the way that you view him infect the way that you look at the evidence and evaluate the evidence in this case?”

“I would say that I think that Trump and I probably have different beliefs, but I don’t think that that invalidates anything about who he is as a person. This is a free country,” said a software engineer who became Juror No. 6. “I think that I can look at this as a person on trial, any other American citizen, and not take this person who used to be the president as that, and just stick to what’s being shown to me.”

A civil litigator originally from North Carolina similarly told the lawyers in the case that he could put aside his conflicting thoughts on Trump to sit in judgment of the former president.

“I think there were policies that I agreed with and policies that I didn’t agree with. I don’t know the man. I don’t have any particular opinions about him personally,” said the recent college graduate, who become Juror No. 7.

A speech therapist who grew up in New Jersey and now lives on Manhattan’s Upper East Side had a similar attitude.

“I don’t agree with a lot of his politics and his decisions as a president, but I have really taken the past two days to reflect and make sure that I could leave that at the door and be a totally impartial juror, and I feel like I can,” said the woman, who was sworn in as Juror No. 9.

A physical therapist from Manhattan’s Upper East Side similarly suggested she could put aside political opinions in the courtroom.

“As an eligible voter I feel it is my responsibility in regard to elections to establish an educated decision so that I can vote. In regards to this court case and the defendant in the room, I have no opinions until I am presented with the information in the courtroom,” said the woman, who became Juror No. 12.

The jurors’ opinions could be critical when it comes to assessing the credibility of witnesses — including Trump himself, if he testifies.

“This is a case where … the defense intends to make witness credibility a centerpiece of the trial,” prosecutor Matthew Colangelo told Judge Juan Merchan Friday during a hearing, held without the prospective jurors, on the scope of cross-examination if Trump should take the stand — something he’s recently said on three occasions that he intends to do.

Starting with opening statements, the jurors have each vowed to give Trump a blank slate when they begin judging his actions on Monday.

“He was our president, everyone knows who he is,” said the woman who would become Juror No. 9. “So we have to leave them at the door — meaning, I don’t know who this person is, I have zero opinions of them, and [I have to] be able to be totally neutral in this.”

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