Trump’s second day on criminal trial: Bodega visit, judge warning and more bizarre jury excuses

Former president is now expected to be in court four days a week for the next six to eight weeks

Martha McHardy,Joe Sommerlad
Thursday 18 April 2024 15:33 BST
Trump admonished by judge on day two of criminal case
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Jury selection continued on the second day of Donald Trump’s historic hush money trial, with seven jurors picked.

Several more prospective jurors said they could not remain unbiased, underscoring the challenge of seating a panel in Manhattan, a profoundly Democratic borough.

Trump, 77, is facing 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in a alleged bid to cover up hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

He allegedly paid Daniels, 45, $130,000 in October 2016 in exchange for her silence over a 2006 affair Daniels says they had.

Mr Trump denies the affair and all of the charges brought against him by Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg.

Here are the key takeaways from day two of The People v Donald Trump.

Seven jurors selected

Seven jurors – four men and three women – have now been selected to serve on the panel that will decide if the former president is innocent or guilty of falsifying his business records in 2016.

A man who works in sales in New York City was appointed as the jury foreperson, who serves as its spokesman.

Five of the seven have a college degree or higher education. Two men on the panel are lawyers. None of them shared particularly strong views about Mr Trump or politics, according to reports.

They were selected from 18 prospective jurors questioned on Tuesday.

The voir dire process saw Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche question the potential jurors on what they thought of Trump before asking Judge Juan Merchan to remove five for cause, pointing to alleged anti-Trump social media posts made by those individuals in an effort to argue that they were unfairly biased against the former president.

One woman had posted a video on Facebook of people having a “dance party” on the Manhattan streets a day after the 2020 presidential election, which Mr Blanche called “extraordinarily hostile”. The judge denied the motion to remove her.

However, another man was removed due to a social media post celebrating the end of Mr Trump’s travel ban, which stated: “Get him out and lock him up.”

Judge Merchan agreed to strike the juror, saying the post showed “a desire that Trump be locked up.”

Former president Donald Trump awaits the start of proceedings on the second day of jury selection at Manhattan Criminal Court (AP)

Another man was removed because he recently shared an AI video that featured a fake Trump declaring: “I’m dumb as f***.”

“I thought it would be funny,” the prospective juror said.

Another person was dismissed for saying they could not remain impartial in light of Mr Trump calling for the death penalty for the Central Park Five in 1989, when five Black teenagers were accused of raping and beating a jogger and convicted – before finally being acquitted and exonerated when the case was re-examined in 2002.

Other reasons given by prospective jurors seeking to be excused from taking part so far have included that they are simply too busy, would require a sitter for their dog or, in one case, expecting to serve as best man at a friend’s wedding.

At least two of the jurors selected on Tuesday expressed positive feelings about the former president.

“He walks into a room, and he sets people off one way or another,” one juror said.

“I find that really interesting. Really, this one guy can do all of this. Wow, that’s what I think.”

Another juror said she “doesn’t really care for the news” but praised Mr Trump for his outspokenness.

“President Trump speaks his mind,” she said.

“And I’d rather that than someone who’s in office who you don’t know what they’re thinking.”

Trump admonished (again)

Mr Trump’s second day in court saw the former president again receive a ticking off from the judge.

The defendant was scolded for his conduct when Judge Merchan brought in one of the potential jurors to discuss her aforementioned social media post about the New Yorkers celebrating Joe Biden’s 2020 election win.

“I very, very strongly believe that regardless of my thoughts about anyone or anything political, feelings or convictions, that the job of a juror is to understand the facts of a trial and to be the judge of those facts,” she said.

After she left the courtroom, Judge Merchan accused Mr Trump of audibly speaking and gesturing in the direction of the juror.

Former US president Donald Trump is seen sitting in this courtroom sketch while his lawyer Todd Blanche stands to speak during the second day of jury selection (AP)

“Mr Blanche, while the juror was at the podium, maybe 12 feet from your client, your client was audibly uttering something, I don’t know exactly what he was uttering, he was audibly gesturing, speaking in the direction of the juror. I won’t tolerate that,” Judge Merchan told the defence attorney, raising his voice.

“I will not have any jurors intimidated in this courtroom. I want to make that crystal clear.”

“Yes, your honor,” Mr Blanche responded.

Mr Trump is under a gag order imposed on him in March to prevent him from commenting publicly about witnesses, prosecutors, court staff and jurors.

Bodega visit

The trial is adjourned on Wednesday but will return for the resumption of the jury selection process on Thursday, with five more jurors and six substitutes still required from the next tranche of 96 local residents that have been summoned.

Judge Merchan appeared optimistic that the process can be resolved by the end of the working week so that opening statements can commence on Monday.

After Mr Trump left court on Tuesday, he pointedly paid a visit to a Harlem bodega that found itself at the centre of a high-profile crime two years.

The former president stopped by the Sanaa Convenient Store, formerly known as the Blue Moon Convenient Store, where a fatal stabbing occured in 2022.

Former president Donald Trump reacts as he enters the Sanaa convenience store in Harlem on Tuesday afternoon (AP)

Mr Trump arrived to meet with the store’s co-owner Maad Ahmed and small business advocate Francisco Marte and was met with cheers and chants of “USA! USA!” and “Four more years!” from a group of supporters outside.

“This is a very exciting time for me because the Bodegas Association invited me – I respect them and they respect me. They want law and order, they have a lot of crime, tremendous crime, their stores are being robbed,” the Republican presidential candidate told reporters.

Reverting briefly to his own legal plight, he continued: “There’s never been a judge so conflicted as this, it’s ridiculous. There’s no crime.

“You know where the crime is? In the bodegas... These people have to be treated fairly, the bodegas, every week they’re being robbed two or three times, it’s crazy. And you know what, the police can do it, they can stop it but they have to be allowed to do their job.”

Mr Trump talks with the bodega’s owner Maad Ahmed yesterday (AP)

He added that New York City, his own hometown, had gotten “bad in the last few years” and he promised to “straighten out” the Big Apple if he returned to the White House.

Referencing Mr Bragg, who Mr Trump says campaigned for DA on the promise he would “get Trump”, the former president said: “He goes after guys like Trump who did nothing wrong.

“They know there are hundreds of murders all over the city, they know who they are, they don’t pick them up, they go after Trump.”

After leaving the store, the former president took the opportunity to complain baselessly that the gag order imposed on him was “unconstitutional” and to seemingly turn his back on embattled House speaker Mike Johnson, answering only “we’ll see what happens with that” when asked to comment on a challenge to remove him being mounted by MAGA congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene.

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