The Trump Organization is going to trial in New York, testing the concept of an impartial juror | Catch My Job


When jury selection in the criminal trial of former US President Donald Trump’s company begins on Monday, prosecutors and the defense are likely to be on alert for “invisible” jurors who want to hide political biases in the hope of being appointed to the panel, legal experts told Reuters.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office charged the Trump Organization with nine counts of tax fraud and other crimes for allegedly paying executives “off the record” since 2005, allowing employees to understate their taxable income and allowing the company to avoid payroll taxes.

If convicted, the Trump Organization could be fined more than $1 million. A conviction could jeopardize the company’s ability to obtain loans and close deals.

The company pleaded not guilty.

In August, Trump Organization CFO Allen Weiselberg admitted to taking more than $1.7 million in untaxed allowances — including college tuition for his grandchildren, a free Manhattan apartment and a luxury car lease payment. Weiselberg is likely to testify before a grand jury.

“It’s very, very difficult, especially with a name this big … for people to be able to separate your organization from the person it’s named after,” said Melissa Gomez, president of MMG Jury Consulting in Philadelphia.

The trial comes as the former president, a Republican, is weighing another possible bid for the White House in 2024.

Gallup polls have been taking place every week during his presidency detailing passionate and somewhat hardened views on Trump. Trump’s approval rating ranged from 34 to 49 percent, and between 47 and 62 percent disapproved of his handling of the presidential job.

Political views in themselves are not disqualifying

During jury selection — which begins Monday — lawyers for both sides will question potential jurors to select the panel of 12 members and six alternates. While jurors cannot be excluded simply because they hold certain political views or express disapproval of Trump, experts say lawyers will seek to remove jurors who cannot be fair and impartial.

Experts said they expect the defense to be on the lookout for so-called “stealth jurors” who don’t answer questions about their views honestly in hopes of being selected. Partisan Democrats who hope a conviction could hurt Trump’s political prospects may be particularly motivated to hide the intensity of their views in order to get on the panel, Gomez said.

“Because of the social and societal implications — and especially because this could be one of the first steps to ensure that Donald Trump can’t run in the future — there is a great risk of an undercover juror,” Gomez said.

Similarly, Gomez said the government will seek to weed out strongly pro-Trump jurors who are unable to put those views aside. Such potential jurors are likely to be significantly larger: Democratic incumbent Joe Biden won 86 percent of the vote in Manhattan in the 2020 election, according to New York state data.

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During jury selection arguments at a Sept. 12 court hearing before Judge Juan Mercan, Trump Organization attorney Susan Necheles said she wanted to make sure all jurors were acquitted if they said, “I hate former President Trump. I would always vote for conviction.”

Joshua Steinglass, an assistant district attorney, said his office shares the same concern “in terms of who we’re trying to prevent from being on the jury.”

Trump’s legal problems are growing

The trial comes as the former US president’s legal troubles mount. He faces a federal investigation into the removal of government documents from the White House when he left office and a defamation lawsuit filed by E. Jean Carroll, the writer who accused him of raping her.

Trump has also been subpoenaed by a House committee to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, riots at the Capitol that followed weeks of his denials about the election, an event also being investigated by a grand jury in Washington.

Attorneys for the Trump Organization argue that the Manhattan district attorney’s case is “selective prosecution” based on animosity toward Trump’s political views, although the judge overseeing it rejected that argument.

Both Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and his predecessor, Cyrus Vance, who opened the investigation, are Democrats.

Jury deadlock in border wall fundraising case

Defense attorneys will likely conduct “deep Internet research” and review jurors’ social media profiles to make sure jurors haven’t expressed a disqualifying level of antipathy toward Trump online, said Christina Marinakis, director of juror research at Litigation Insights in Baltimore. .

“There’s a certain degree of due diligence that needs to be done to determine if people are posting things on the internet against your client or maybe it’s inconsistent with what they’re saying in court,” Marinakis said.

Allen Weiselberg, the former CFO of the Trump Organization, is pictured in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan on August 18. (Curtis Means/Reuters)

A guilty verdict must be unanimous, meaning that one juror who does not want to convict could see the case lead to a mistrial.

Earlier this year, a case involving associates of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon accused of defrauding a charity set up to help pay for a wall along the US-Mexico border ended in a mistrial, with reports of tension between jurors of differing political views.

Eleven jurors in that case sent a letter to the judge asking that the other juror be removed because that person showed an anti-government bias and accused everyone else of being liberal. The judge refused and the jury ultimately could not agree on a verdict.


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