Trump complains about hush money trial jury selection


Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media on the first day of his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 15, 2024 in New York City. 

Jefferson Siegel | Getty Images

Donald Trump complained Wednesday that his lawyers were not given “unlimited” chances to reject prospective jurors at his New York criminal hush money trial.

But state law caps the number of would-be jurors his lawyers can strike without cause.

Trump has received that correct number strikes given the type of criminal charges he faces: 10 peremptory strikes for jurors, plus another two for every alternate juror.

“I thought STRIKES were supposed to be ‘unlimited’ when we were picking our jury?” Trump wrote in a post on Truth Social.

“I was then told we only had 10, not nearly enough when we were purposely given the 2nd Worst Venue in the Country.”

Trump suggested that New York City, which leans heavily Democratic, is only better than Washington, D.C. Trump also faces criminal election interference charges in federal court in Washington.

His complaints came a day after the first seven jurors were picked for the trial in Manhattan Supreme Court.

Five more jurors and six alternates remain to be seated when the selection process resumes Thursday with a new group of 96 potential jurors, following a break Wednesday.

In criminal trials in New York, both the prosecutors and the defense are allowed a certain number of peremptory strikes, which can be used to dismiss prospective jurors without any reason.

The number of allotted strikes depends on the level of the highest crime charged.

Trials for Class E felonies, which include the charges of falsifying business records that Trump faces, get the fewest number of challenges.

Samantha Chorny, a criminal defense lawyer in New York City, told CNBC that if there were unlimited peremptory strikes, as Trump wants, “I mean, no one would ever pick a jury.”

Trump’s complaint on Truth Social demonstrates “his willful ignorance of the law,” said Jeremy Saland, another New York criminal defense attorney.

Saland said it is difficult to imagine that Trump “doesn’t know that simple fact” about jury selection strike rules, particularly since he faces four pending criminal cases.

“It tells me he doesn’t really believe” what he is saying and that Trump is trying to “appear as a victim,” Saland said.

Although Trump is considered innocent until proven guilty, “this kind of nonsense, it’s really hurtful to law and order,” Saland said.

Trump’s lawyers and prosecutors can make an unlimited number of requests to Judge Juan Merchan to strike a potential juror for cause.

The cause can include a person’s inability to be fair and impartial to either side in a trial.

Merchan on Tuesday rejected at least one request by Trump’s attorneys to strike a prospective juror for cause.

Former President Donald Trump visits Sanaa convenient store, a bodega in upper Manhattan, minutes after leaving Manhattan criminal court, in New York, NY on Tuesday, April 16, 2024.

Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post | Getty Images

Some legal experts had initially expected it could take up to two weeks to select a jury, pointing to the presumed difficulty of finding people who could fairly judge the polarizing Republican presumptive presidential nominee.

But after the first group of jurors were seated Tuesday, Merchan if the current pace of jury selection continues, opening statements could begin Monday morning.

Trump after court Tuesday accused Merchan of “rushing.” But he previously complained that the projected six-week length of the trial is a form of “election interference” because it would keep him off of the campaign trail.

Trump is charged in the case with falsifying business records related to the $130,000 hush money payment his then-lawyer Michael Cohen gave porn star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 presidential election.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg accuses Trump of trying to influence that election, which he ended up winning, by covertly silencing Daniels from speaking about a sexual tryst she had with Trump years earlier. Trump denies having sex with Daniels.

After the trial adjourned Tuesday afternoon, Trump visited the Sanaa Convenient Store in Harlem, which was the site of a fatal stabbing in 2022 that led to a controversial charging decision by Bragg’s office.

Read more CNBC politics coverage

Store clerk Joe Alba was arrested and charged with murder after stabbing an ex-convict who was attacking him at the store. But Bragg dropped the charges weeks later after public outcry about the arrest, which had kept Alba in jail for weeks.

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for Bragg said, “This matter was resolved nearly two years ago, and the charges were dismissed after a thorough investigation.”

“D.A. Bragg’s top priority remains combating violent crime and the office has worked hand in hand with the NYPD to drive down overall crime in Manhattan, including double digit decreases in homicides and shootings since he took office,” the spokesperson said.

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