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Hush money jury finalized in first criminal trial against a former U.S. president

Also in this week's Deadline: Legal Newsletter: The Supreme Court hears argument in a crucial Jan. 6 case ahead of the upcoming immunity hearing in Trump's appeal.


Welcome back, Deadline: Legal Newsletter readers. A Manhattan jury was assembled this week for the first criminal trial against a former U.S. president. The selection process in People v. Donald Trump started off slow, then picked up quickly, then went backward somehow, but ultimately wrapped up with the 12 regular jurors picked Thursday and the alternates finalized Friday. Opening statements await.

“We have our jury,” Judge Juan Merchan said at the end of a dramatic Thursday. By then, there were 12 regular jurors and one of six alternates picked. But it wasn’t a straight line to get there. There were seven jurors heading into Thursday, yet two were excused after raising privacy concerns. Momentum picked up later that day, setting up for the Friday finish with a full panel.

Trump’s menacing behavior continued to cast a shadow over the criminal proceeding against him. Merchan warned the defendant about intimidating jurors in court, and prosecutors told the judge that Trump has already violated his gag order several times, including with a social media post targeting jurors. A hearing is set for Tuesday to address the matter. Now the question is how the judge will enforce his order. It’s a decision that could set the tone for the trial as it gets underway.   

Opening statements are slated for Monday. That’s when prosecutors will lay out for jurors what to expect, setting the groundwork to make their case weeks later in closing arguments that they’ve proved the falsifying business records charges beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense has no burden; it falls entirely on the state.

The Supreme Court, meanwhile, heard argument in a Jan. 6 case that has implications for the charges against hundreds of rioters — as well as the federal election interference case against Trump. On that note, the justices will hear argument Thursday in Trump’s immunity appeal. How the high court resolves that one — and when — could determine whether the hush money trial is the only one Trump will face before the November election.

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