Task 1 in Trump Organization trial: picking a neutral jury

Oct 23, 2022, 11:12 AM | Updated: Oct 24, 2022, 7:50 pm
FILE - Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally, Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, in Wilmington, N.C....

FILE - Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally, Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, in Wilmington, N.C. On Monday, Oct. 24, 2022, Trump’s company goes on trial in a criminal tax case and the first task facing the court is a big one: Picking a neutral jury. (AP Photo/Chris Seward, File)

(AP Photo/Chris Seward, File)

              FILE - The Trump Organization's former Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg arrives at court, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022, in New York. On Monday, Oct. 24, 2022, former President Donald Trump’s company goes on trial in a criminal tax case and the first task facing the court is a big one: Picking a neutral jury. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura, File)
            
              FILE - Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally, Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, in Wilmington, N.C. On Monday, Oct. 24, 2022, Trump’s company goes on trial in a criminal tax case and the first task facing the court is a big one: Picking a neutral jury. (AP Photo/Chris Seward, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s company went on trial Monday in a criminal tax case and the first task facing the court was a big one: picking a jury of New Yorkers who didn’t have a strong opinion about the former president.

About half of an initial pool of 132 prospective jurors begged off the jury before formal questioning began, with some telling reporters outside the courtroom that they know they couldn’t be fair in a trial related to Trump.

Yoke Chai, 60, the lone prospective juror among 18 who orally answered written questions in the afternoon to be excused from the jury pool, said as she left the courtroom that she told lawyers and the judge at a sidebar that she was not sure she could be unbiased in a case involving Trump.

Questioning of the first group of prospective jurors to sit in the jury box was to continue Tuesday morning, with lawyers from each side permitted to ask questions for 30 minutes. After a sufficient number of prospective jurors are screened, lawyers will be allowed to exclude more individuals from the panel to reach the final dozen jurors.

Manhattan prosecutors say the Trump Organization helped top executives avoid income taxes on job perks such as rent-free apartments and luxury cars.

Trump himself isn’t on trial and isn’t expected to testify. The judge and lawyers in the case were looking to keep people off the jury if they have unshakably strong feelings about the Republican, who isn’t liked in his hometown.

In the 2020 presidential election, 87% of Manhattan voters supported Democrat Joe Biden for president. Trump got 12% of the vote.

“Day 1 in the books,” a pleased William Brennan, one of the Trump Organization’s lawyers, said as he exited the courthouse late Monday afternoon. “When you boil it all down, it is a garden-variety tax case. And that’s how they should look at it.”

Attorney Michael van der Veen, another Trump Organization attorney, said Tuesday would involve “sludging through, really getting down to people’s interests and whether they can be fair or not.” He said they hoped to have a jury by Friday.

Judge Juan Manuel Merchan warned all prospective jurors to avoid researching the case on the internet or talking to anybody about it.

In the morning, he described the case to them and explained that he wants unbiased jurors who will decide the case solely on the evidence.

Merchan told the jury pool the trial would last about six weeks, and that they should expect during the presentation of evidence to hear Trump’s name and the names of his three eldest children, Ivanka, Eric and Donald Trump Jr.

After the introduction, Merchan and the lawyers retreated to a back room out of public view where they let prospective jurors who raised their hands explain why they thought they didn’t belong on the jury.

Those who were excused from the jury pool emerged from the courtroom, telling reporters they were let go for various reasons, including for medical issues or job-related stresses.

But several said their bias got them a fast exit, including a psychiatrist who said she told them that Trump exhibits social narcissistic behavior and the charges related to the company reflect his personality.

Delvin Gerdan, a Manhattan doorman, said he merely expressed that he was opinionated about Trump. He said he was asked if he would be “leaning more toward one side” and he responded “yes.” That was enough to get him excused.

A woman who identified herself only as Adrienne N., 34, said she was excused for reasons other than bias. But she said she was also ready to say she could not be fair.

“He’s guilty in my mind, whatever the case is,” the advertising industry worker said.

The trial is expected to center on the actions and testimony of longtime Trump Organization executive Allen Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty in August to accepting more than $1.7 million worth of untaxed perks from the company.

Trump has decried the probe as a “political witch hunt.” The company’s lawyers have said the Trump Organization played by the rules.

If convicted, the company could be fined more than $1 million. A guilty verdict could hamper its ability to get loans and make deals.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg inherited the prosecution when he took office in January. Bragg has taken a cautious approach with Trump, declining so far to bring charges against him personally in what’s now a three-year investigation.

The jury selection process could take several days, especially if people in the pool express reservations about their ability to be neutral. Getting a panel with an open mind, though, could be critical to avoiding a mistrial.

In the spring, another trial in a nearby federal courthouse ended in a mistrial because of tensions between jurors about political views. That case involved an associate of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon who was accused of defrauding a charity founded to help pay for a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. His retrial began Monday.

Eleven jurors in that case sent a note to the judge asking that another juror be removed because that person had shown an anti-government bias and accused all the others of being liberals. The judge declined and the jury ultimately couldn’t agree on a verdict.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Palestinian soccer fans wave Qatari and Palestinian flags as they watch a live broadcast of ...
Associated Press

Flashes of Arab unity at World Cup after years of discontent

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — For a brief moment after Saudi Arabia’s Salem Aldawsari fired a ball from just inside the penalty box into the back of the net to seal a World Cup win against Argentina, Arabs across the divided Middle East found something to celebrate. Such Arab unity is hard to come by and […]
1 day ago
FILE - MGM Grand Macau casino resort is closed in Macao on July 11, 2022. Macao has tentatively ren...
Associated Press

Macao awards casino licenses to MGM, Sands, Wynn, 3 others

BEIJING (AP) — Macao has tentatively renewed the casino licenses of MGM Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts and three Chinese rivals after they promised to help diversify its economy by investing in non-gambling attractions, the government said Saturday. The announcement is positive news for owners who have invested billions of dollars to build the […]
1 day ago
FILE - Local authorities inaugurate the Christmas lighting in the streets of Vigo, Spain, Nov. 19, ...
Associated Press

Sober or bright? Europe faces holidays during energy crunch

VERONA, Italy (AP) — Early season merrymakers sipping mulled wine and shopping for holiday decorations packed the Verona Christmas market for its inaugural weekend. But beyond the wooden market stalls, the Italian city still has not decked out its granite-clad pedestrian streets with twinkling holiday lights as officials debate how bright to make the season […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Today in History: November 26, the NHL is founded

Today in History Today is Saturday, Nov. 26, the 330th day of 2022. There are 35 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On Nov. 26, 1950, China entered the Korean War, launching a counteroffensive against soldiers from the United Nations, the U.S. and South Korea. On this date: In 1825, the first […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Head of Haiti’s police academy killed at training facility

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — The director of Haiti’s National Police Academy was shot and killed at the doors of a police training facility in a gang-controlled neighborhood in the country’s capital of Port-au-Prince, Haitian police said Friday night. The killing of Harington Rigaud is just the latest in a number of attacks against law enforcement, […]
1 day ago
FILE - A hippo floats in the lagoon at Hacienda Napoles Park, once the private estate of drug kingp...
Associated Press

Wildlife conference boosts protection for sharks, turtles

PANAMA CITY (AP) — An international wildlife conference moved to enact some of the most significant protection for shark species targeted in the fin trade and scores of turtles, lizards and frogs whose numbers are being decimated by the pet trade. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, known […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
Task 1 in Trump Organization trial: picking a neutral jury