Full Jury Seated In Trump ‘Hush Money’ Trial, Opening Statements Set For Monday

Former US President Donald Trump gestures as he enters Manhattan Criminal Court after a lunch break during his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, in New York City on April 19, 2024. A panel of 12 jurors was sworn in on April 18, 2024, for the unprecedented criminal trial of a former US president. (Photo by SPENCER PLATT/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

OAN’s Brooke Mallory
3:48 PM – Friday, April 19, 2024

Following a dramatic day in which two potential jurors broke down in tears, an appeals court judge denied Trump’s request for a stay of proceedings, and a man set himself on fire in front of the courthouse, opening statements in Donald Trump’s historic criminal trial are scheduled to start next week.


“We’re going to have opening statements on Monday morning. This trial is starting,” Judge Juan Merchan said towards the end of the day, after successfully seating the remaining five alternate jurors that were needed.

Twelve jurors and six alternates will hear the case, which is the first criminal prosecution of a former president. It is anticipated to last for about six weeks.

The six alternates who were finally chosen on Friday include an executive from a clothing company, a project manager for a construction company, an audio professional, and a married, unemployed woman who enjoys art and considers herself to be non-political.

The process of selecting the 18 jurors lasted four days.

Early in the afternoon, a man also lit himself on fire outside the courthouse as the judge announced, “We have our full panel” inside the courtroom.

The victim, identified as Max Azzarello, was labeled as mentally ill by an NYPD spokesman. Before lighting himself on fire, he seemed to have distributed leaflets “detailing a Bitcoin plot,” according to the authorities.

Trump’s legal team was in a state appeals court later that afternoon, attempting once more to obtain an immediate stay of the trial. Cliff Robert, a Trump lawyer, contended that his client was not entitled to a fair trial in the historically liberal borough of Manhattan, where Trump lived for a long period until relocating to Florida following his election as president in 2016.

In response, Steven Wu from the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg stated, “What the last week has shown is that the jury selection has worked.”

“We have 18 ordinary New Yorkers who are ready to serve. It would be unfair to them and the public for this to be delayed further,” he stated. The judge rejected Trump’s stay request a short time later. 

There were tears shed by some prospective jurors and statements made by others expressing that they were too nervous to serve during the particularly rigorous jury selection process on Friday.

The court started the day by calling the 22 potential jurors from the first pool of 96 to respond to questions meant to show if they could be unbiased and fair toward the real estate tycoon and Republican presidential nominee.

One of those prospective jurors was removed because, in her own words, she couldn’t be impartial. She informed the judge, “I have really, really bad anxiety and people have found out where I am.” Shortly after, the judge disqualified two other prospective jurors who had informed him that, after giving it more thought, “I don’t think I can be impartial.”

A married parent who claimed to be a listener of the podcast “Order of Man,” which talks about “reclaiming what it means to be a man,” was among the other prospective jurors.

Those who have openly backed Trump and harshly criticized the civil fraud case New York Attorney General Letitia James filed against the former president are among the podcast’s previous guests. The individual was selected as an alternate as an audio specialist.

A married fund manager who claimed to have assisted Trump’s 2016 opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was another possible juror. As the juror was speaking, Trump and his lawyer, Todd Blanche, exchanged notes. However, after being questioned on a 2020 Facebook post in which he allegedly referred to Trump as “the devil and a sociopath,” he was subsequently dismissed.

Jurors whose responses raised questions about their own political beliefs seemed to be of particular interest to Trump. Upon hearing from a potential juror that they “watched Fox News,” Trump tilted his head and whispered to his attorney, Todd Blanche.

A woman who was another prospective juror broke down in tears when she revealed she had been incarcerated for two years on drug-related charges, but she claimed she could be “fair and impartial.”

Merchan, who had chastised reporters on Thursday for giving away too much information on possible jurors, said during the morning break that the woman had told “very personal things about her life” and was “very brave.”

“I just wanted to encourage the press to please be kind. Please be kind to this person,” Merchan said. Subsequently, he dismissed her, stating that she would require a certificate of release in order to be eligible for further duty. As she left, she exclaimed, “Good luck!” with a smile.

After that juror left, the DA’s office started interviewing the other jurors in turn. When prosecutor Susan Hoffinger addressed a woman—who had previously revealed that her father has been a lifetime friend with Trump ally turned critic Chris Christie—about the case’s burden of proof, the woman started crying.

“I feel so nervous and anxious right now. I’m sorry,” she responded while crying. “I thought I could do this,” she added. “I wouldn’t want someone who feels this way to judge my case.” She was dismissed soon after as well.

Susan Necheles, another Trump lawyer, questioned a prospective juror who had launched their own company on how she would evaluate a witness’s credibility after Hoffinger. The woman then requested a meeting with the court, stating that Necheles’s line of questioning was “giving her anxiety and self-doubt.” She was let go.

Necheles then questioned a different woman, who had previously claimed to have been sexually assaulted, about whether or not she would hold it against Trump that other women had accused Trump of sexual assault. Although she stated she would not have any trouble dispelling the charges, the judge eventually granted her an exception, stating, “It’s best to err on the side of caution.”

Although he disagrees with some of Trump’s policies, another man said he still thinks the former GOP president is “usually awesome.” He was also passed over for the jury.

Trump once again asserted on his walk into court that the case against him is “unfair” and that the gag order that keeps him from speaking about witnesses, prosecutors, court employees, and jurors is not “constitutional.”

“Everyone else can say whatever they want about me. They can say anything they want. They can continue to make up lies and everything else. They lie. They’re real scum. But you know what? I’m not allowed to speak,” Trump told the media.

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 are the main panel of jurors, composed of seven males and five women altogether. The foreman, a married salesman who receives his “news from Fox News, MSNBC, and The New York Times,” is the juror who effectively serves as the panel’s leader and speaker.

The only other candidate chosen on Thursday was a female asset manager.

Soon after the final jurors were chosen, Trump utilized social media to discuss how quickly the process was going, accusing the judge of “‘railroading’ me, at breakneck speed, in order to perfectly satisfy his ‘friends.’”

Additionally, Merchan held what is called a Sandoval hearing later that day. This kind of hearing is intended to enlighten defendants about the range of inquiries they may encounter from prosecutors during cross-examination, enabling them to make well-informed choices about whether to testify on their own behalf.

As Trump was leaving the courtroom on Friday, someone asked him whether he still intended to testify, and he replied that he did.

In a court filing, the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg revealed that it would like to question Trump on a number of matters, including the $464 million civil judgment against him and his business for alleged fraud and the total $88 million in verdicts and liability findings for the cases filed by author E. Jean Carroll.

In every case, Trump has adamantly denied any misconduct, and he is currently appealing both the Carroll verdicts and the fraud judgment.

If the defendant goes to testify, the prosecution stated that they hope to be able to use such results “to impeach the credibility of the defendant.”

It is “hard to think of something that is more squarely in the wheelhouse” for the DA to question Trump about, prosecutor Matthew Colangelo told the judge during a discussion of the fraud case’s conclusions, “than a finding by a judge of persistent and repeated fraud and illegality.”

Emil Bove, Trump’s attorney, retorted that since Trump’s appeal is still underway, prosecutors shouldn’t be allowed to bring up the subject at all. He offered similar defenses against the DA’s claim that they ought to be permitted to inquire about the judge’s conclusion that he had broken a gag order in the case and had lied on the witness stand during the fraud trial.

“Is it your position that because a case is being appealed or might be appealed, that therefore it can not be used?” Merchan asked the attorney. “Not necessarily,” Bove said in response.

According to NBC News, “the judge said he’d issue his ruling on the dispute on Monday morning.”

Meanwhile, social media users on X (Twitter) commented on the trial’s process and on Judge Merchan as well.

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