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    Thursday, June 13, 2024

    Do you think you could be a Trump juror?

    Former President Donald Trump arrives for a press conference at Manhattan criminal court, March 25, 2024, in New York. Trump will make history as the first former president to stand trial on criminal charges when his hush money case opens with jury selection. The case will force the presumptive Republican presidential nominee to juggle campaigning with sitting in a Manhattan courtroom for weeks to defend himself against charges involving a scheme to bury allegations of marital infidelity that arose during his first White House campaign in 2016. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura, File)
    Adult film actress Stormy Daniels speaks outside federal court on April 16, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

    When Donald Trump walks into a Manhattan courtroom on Monday, it will kick off a process unprecedented in American history: jury selection for a former president’s criminal trial.

    Trump is facing 34 felony charges for allegedly falsifying business records related to a hush money payment to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election, to keep her from accusing Trump of a long-ago affair.

    If you’re 18 years old or older, a citizen, live in Manhattan, can communicate in English and do not have a felony conviction, you are, technically, eligible to serve on a jury, according to state officials. Prospective jurors will have to answer a survey and questions from lawyers to determine whether they can judge the evidence fairly.

    One prominent jury consultant said the issue is more nuanced than gauging partisanship or voter behavior. “It’s about evaluating how strongly they feel about him and his actions, and their ability to identify their own impressions about him,” says Richard Gabriel, co-author of the book “Jury Selection Strategy and Science.”

    The key, he said, is “to have people talk about the strengths of their feelings about Donald Trump.” In other words, jury selection isn’t about finding people without any opinions about the former president, rather it’s finding jurors that are able to put their biases aside.

    Trump has been vocal about wanting a change of venue, posting on Truth Social, “VERY UNFAIR VENUE, WITH SOME AREAS THAT VOTED 1% REPUBLICAN. THIS CASE SHOULD BE MOVED TO NEARBY STATEN ISLAND.” Last week a New York appellate court judge denied the request, and the trial remains set to begin on Monday with jury selection.

    So, we spoke to people in Manhattan, a borough where only about 12 percent of voters cast ballots for Trump in 2020. Some walked away when they heard Trump’s name. Some said they hate him. A few said they like him. One said they tried out for “The Apprentice,” a popular reality show Trump hosted from 2004 to 2017.

    Here are their interviews, lightly edited for clarity.

    - - -

    Adam Wilson

    49, Upper West Side, e-commerce

    Do you think you can be an impartial juror on Donald Trump’s trial?

    I think I could, because, honestly, I don’t pay attention to politics these days. It’s too stressful.

    Do you remember the first time Donald Trump made an impression on you?

    I grew up in Queens and I lived here from 1974 to 1992. And at that time Donald Trump was considered like, I don’t know if a good guy, but a decent guy. Obviously most New Yorkers these days do not consider him a good guy. I’m kind of ambivalent. I don’t think he’s any worse than Biden, to be honest.

    Trump grew up in Jamaica Estates. What part of Queens did you grow up in?

    Jamaica, Hollis.

    Andrew M. Cuomo is from there.

    I’m not anti-Trump but I’m very anti-Cuomo.

    Do you think Donald Trump could get a fair trial in Manhattan?

    I think a lot of New Yorkers are anti-Trump. ... I would hope that anyone could get a fair trial anywhere in this country, right? Like, that’s how it should be. And it’s unfortunate that you even have to ask that question, to be honest.

    - - -

    Donald Williams

    56, Chelsea, barber

    If you were asked to be impartial, and judge the case based on what’s presented in the courtroom, is that something you could do?

    Yeah, definitely.

    Do you remember earlier impressions of Donald Trump?

    I was actually really impressed with Donald Trump, because he was an entrepreneur and stuff like that. One thing I do like about him: He states how he feels. And that’s one thing I like. I like to be with someone, to know how they really feel.

    Would you want to serve on the jury?

    I would.

    As a barber, what do you think about his hair?

    It’s awful. He needs a makeover.

    - - -

    Ava Delaney

    23, West Village, actor and musician

    Do you think you could be an impartial juror if you were asked to serve on that jury?

    So, basically an unbiased voice? I would try, honestly. But I think it would be impossible, I think there really is no alternative. Like what can be argued but his faults in so many infinite things.

    Do you remember the first time you heard of him as a candidate?

    2015, probably. And so I was 15 and in high school and a young queer person. It was a very aggressive energy and very confusing to see how that like process happened where he got elected. It was heartbreaking at the time, for sure.

    - - -

    George Rivera

    64, East Harlem, works in hospital

    If you got a jury summons and they said, could you be an impartial juror?

    Against him or for him?

    Impartial means you would only judge it based on the evidence in the courtroom.

    Well, then I got no problem with that. I mean, I don’t mind serving on a jury for that. Why not? … I have a mind of my own, and I can decide from what evidence has been proven. … I’m not going to judge right away. You can’t judge right away.

    What do you think of Donald Trump?

    Me, as a New Yorker I can’t judge him for who he is. Basically, I can only judge him by the way he carries himself, especially in the White House. I liked the way he handled himself in the White House, and I think he brung America back to its feet. … I like him. I agree in everything that he has said, because what he said is true. It has to be true. It can’t be false, because if it’s false and he can be brung up on charges.

    - - -

    Jon DeVries

    77, Lower Manhattan, actor

    Do you recall the first time you heard the name Donald Trump?

    I think it was around the time when he was moving homeless people into one of his buildings in order to scare the other residents out, the rent-protected residents out. That was the first time. Second time was when he convicted, all by himself, all five of those young men in the Central Park case.

    Do you think you could be an impartial juror on the trial of Donald Trump?

    Well, it would be difficult. But it would be an interesting challenge to try to stick to the facts and the arguments and the force of the law. I think these days it would be difficult to find anybody, anywhere in the United States, possibly in the world, who could tell you that they would be 100 percent objective about anything involving Donald Trump.

    (Later, he texted to say, “The best response to a charlatan who disparages the system of justice unless it works in his favor is to respect it as fully as you can. And that means putting aside personal feelings and dealing with the truth, the facts, of the case at hand.”)

    - - -

    Robin Hafitz

    61, Flatiron, market research

    Do you remember the first time he made an impression on you?

    He was young and brash and showing up in the gossip papers a lot and associated with certain buildings and associated with certain women. I also remember, although this wouldn’t be a first impression, I remember when the National Enquirer really started trying to promote him.

    Have you ever stayed at a Trump building?

    I’ve probably walked into a Trump building once or twice in New York. And yeah, I have a strong impression of him in office. It was a pretty s----y time.

    Do you think he can get a fair trial in Manhattan?

    Sure. There’s lots of people who weren’t paying any attention at all. Absolutely. I mean, Manhattan is so full of people and they’re all so different. There’s such diversity here. I mean, really, you know, for a fair trial, it needs to be somebody who hasn’t thought about it that much yet, hasn’t already come to a conclusion. Manhattan’s got plenty of those people in it.

    - - -

    Brandon Guzman

    24, SoHo, banking and financial services

    Can you be an impartial juror?

    No, unfortunately I do have a biased opinion. I think the media distorted my current perspective, and it’s hard for me to gain any sort of judgment. Truly. One moment I’m pro left, and then the next moment I’m pro right. It’s interesting because I would really like to understand what is truth, but currently it’s hard for me to trust the news that I’m getting.

    If you were asked to only think about the evidence presented in court, do you think you could do that?

    Of course. I think it’s unfair that we live too much in a gray society and people need to be able to stand on opinions. And if I’m able to sit down and view the evidence, of course, most definitely. But it’s hard for me to even gauge if the evidence that I see is even real.

    What do you think of Donald Trump?

    I used to love Donald Trump before he became president. Yeah. I love old Donald Trump back in the ’80s, before I knew all the bad things, essentially. It’s a real shame that you have one perspective of somebody and then one circumstance changes everything. Now currently, do I like who I currently have for president? I would say probably no. But I wouldn’t mind seeing Donald Trump go for a second run.

    - - -

    Crystal Clemens

    76, Upper West Side, retired educator

    Could you be an impartial juror in Trump’s upcoming trial?

    No, I don’t think so. I don’t think I could be impartial. I think I would throw the book at him.

    Do you remember when he first made an impression on you?

    No, not really. Maybe it was Stormy Daniels. The thing I don’t like he’s doing now is with the Bibles. What’s going on with the Bibles? … He’s over the top. I’m so done with Donald Trump.

    Do you think he could get a fair trial in Manhattan?

    For me, it would be fair because he would be held accountable and judged on what he did.

    - - -

    Raymond Hall

    55, Harlem, nonprofit

    Do you think you can be an impartial juror?

    I know who he is. I followed him for years on media. And I think I can be fair, depending on if the actual facts come out. If it’s actual, verifiable facts, he should be able to get a fair judgment.

    Do you remember your first impression of Donald Trump?

    Somebody to watch. He was somebody to watch. He had, like, that it factor. Not like just some regular businessman. It’s just something you couldn’t put a finger on.

    Did you watch his television show?

    I watched some of it when I was in the military.

    Do you have any strong impression of his time as a candidate or as a president?

    He wasn’t a polished politician, per se. He spoke what was on his mind. And that was refreshing.

    Do you think he can get a fair trial in Manhattan?

    No, because of the negative publicity and the bias coming mostly from the mainstream media.

    - - -

    Anna K.

    22, Greenwich Village, undergrad, majoring in fine arts

    If you were asked to block out all the outside information about Donald Trump and only think about what is presented in the courtroom, could you do that, as a juror?

    Personally, probably, yeah. But at the same time it’s like, you never know - humans operate differently in different circumstances.

    Do you think he can get a fair trial in Manhattan?

    It really depends on the person. Someone can say that they’re fair, but their intentions aren’t. You can always lie.

    - - -

    David Amirian

    45, Chelsea, real estate developer

    Could you be an impartial juror?

    I don’t think so. Because it’s not like he’s someone that you don’t know. And he’s so divisive that you either love him or hate him. And because he was the president, everyone already knows who he is. So you’re biased based upon your viewpoint. If you’re a Democrat or a Republican or just know him as a businessman.

    What’s your impression of Donald Trump?

    He built in New York City. So as a developer, I knew him before he was - not knew him, I, know the projects that he did, and I know people that work for him. So I knew what his reputation was. … I also tried out for “The Apprentice.”

    - - -

    What does a typical jury in Manhattan look like?

    Juries here usually have slightly more women than men, more white people than people of color, and more folks between the ages of 25 and 64 than any other ages. That is based on information from a 2022 report by New York State officials who surveyed people that served on juries in Manhattan.

    Based on data from that survey, a typical 12-person jury in Manhattan would include six women, five men and one person who identifies as transgender, nonbinary or in some other way. There would be about seven white people, two Hispanic people, one Black person, one Asian person and one person who is mixed or some other race.

    One would be between 18 and 24 years old, five would be between 25 and 44 years old, four would be between 45 and 64; two would be between 65 and 75, and one person would be 75 years or older.

    All jurors will be expected to put their biases toward Trump aside and stick to the facts. “No one is going to say they never heard of Donald Trump,” said Ross Cellino, the attorney known for large jury awards and ubiquitous advertising. “The question is can you find a juror who is fair” and “could they follow the law?” He added, “I tend to think voters and jurors are two different types of people because of their job.”

    Voters take in information then “vote privately in a voting booth, knowing their individual vote is actually rather insignificant,” he said. Jurors, on the other hand, “take their oath seriously to evaluate the evidence presented to them,” and ignore preconceived notions, if any, about a defendant. Twelve jurors must agree on a verdict, and, “they seem to understand and appreciate the gravity of their vote in a trial.”

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