Former President Donald Trump’s trial begins in Manhattan, jury selection poses issues

By Haley Clough

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Jury selection for a Manhattan court’s proceedings against former President Donald Trump have created a unique dilemma when determining how to find impartial jurors for such a notorious public figure. The jury selection process, beginning on Monday, will be tasked with evaluating charges against Trump, including 34 counts of forging business records, hush money, and other coverup crimes.

This case is historic in its essence, and that extends to the selection of the jury. Trump’s presidential campaign and presidency divided America, especially on social media, and those selected for the jury must be able to remain impartial when evaluating a deeply polarizing individual. 

“There is no chance that we’re going to find a single juror that doesn’t have a view,” Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass said of Trump. While he may be correct, professor of Criminal Justice psychology at John Jay College, Margaret Bull Kovera, says finding just and fair jurors is not an impossible feat, according to the Associated Press

“There are people who will look at the law, look at the evidence that’s shown and make a decision,” said Kovera. The jury selection is not contingent on finding people who don’t know Trump, but instead hinges on finding people who will only consider the information given during the trial. Prospective jurors will not be asked their political preferences, voting history, or other similar questions, but they may be asked more open-ended questions about whether their political or cultural affiliations could impact their ability to evaluate the case.  

Trump continues to plead not guilty in allegations of extramarital affairs and mishandling of financial transactions, and his defense attorneys, Susan Necheles, Todd Blanche, and Emil Bove, argue that he made no illegal financial transactions and that all were legal and accounted for. The prosecution for the case, arguing the opposite, is composed of Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg and five other high-profile prosecutors. 

The trial will begin on April 15 after a postponement on March 25, says Judge Juan M. Merchan.