Panel of 12 jurors sworn in for Trump’s historic hush money trial

The panel of 12 Manhattan residents who will ultimately decide the fate of former president Donald Trump in his New York criminal trial have now been seated.

After three days of jury selection, in which hundreds of New Yorkers were called to the New York Criminal Court, sworn in and asked personal questions, the majority of the jury was chosen – a panel of five women and seven men.

One alternative has also been seated, with five more needed to complete the full panel of 18.

Leaving court at the end of the historic day, Mr Trump immediately launched into his usual rhetoric – baselessly calling the case a “witch hunt”, blaming the “crook” President Joe Biden for the criminal charges levelled against him and falsely claiming that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is the real culprit falsifying fraudulent documents.

He also fumed about sitting in the “freezing” courtroom when he should be campaigning for the White House. Mr Trump is required to attend every day of his criminal trial per New York criminal trial procedures.

Unlike previous days when Mr Trump appeared disinterested and possibly sleepy, he seemed more invested in jury selection on Thursday.

So long as none of the jurors contact the court to inform them they can no longer serve, or they’re dismissed, the panel of 12 will be the individuals who decide if Mr Trump is guilty of of criminal charges.

The former president is accused of falsifying 34 business records to cover up alleged hush money payments that were made to adult film star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

That cover-up was allegedly part of a wider catch-and-kill scheme that Mr Trump engaged in with his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, and the former publisher of The National Enquirer to suppress negative stories about him to influence the election.

Mr Trump has denied all wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty to all 34 charges.

Former US president Trump hush money criminal trial continues in New York City (EPA)

Despite concerns that the jury selection process would take a long time, the defence, prosecution and judge managed to find 12 individuals fairly quickly. Morale was low on Thursday morning after two previously selected jurors were dismissed over concerns regarding the publicity of their identities.

Given the high-profile nature of the trial, and Mr Trump’s history of lashing out at court staff, witnesses and prosecution, Judge Juan Merchan made the jury anonymous. He asked the media to keep any information (other than the facts stated during selection) private to help keep the jury anonymous. He also requested any answers to questions regarding current and former employers be redacted from the transcript and kept out of the media.

The 12 individuals chosen for the panel have a wide range of educational backgrounds, some have advanced degrees. Two are lawyers, three are engineers, one is a retired teacher and one is in finance.

Many of the jurors reported that they did not follow the news closely. One said they do not have any form of social media.

Each time the potential jurors were questioned, Mr Trump turned his attention toward the jury box and listened closely. At times when potential jurors criticised his policies, he turned to his lawyers and gave them a tap or whispered something to acknowledge the answer.

The former president sat through hours of questions in which he heard an array of opinions from his fellow New Yorkers.

One potential juror said he was “pretty amazing” but a bigger portion of the jury pool used words like “outrageous”, “self-serving”, and “selfish” to describe his actions.

At one point, a potential juror was called in for further questions regarding negative social media posts she made about the former president from 2016 through 2021. The juror was forced to read aloud a post she made where she called Mr Trump “racist” – she later apologised to the former president.

Yet Mr Trump appeared relaxed most of the day, even while hearing touchy words from potential jurors – holding his feelings back until he left court.

A court sketch shows Donald Trump sitting in the courtroom on 18 April (REUTERS)

Though the first 12 jurors, and one alternate,  have been seated, jury selection is not over. Selection to determine the five additional alternates will continue on Friday after the Scandvol hearing.

Judge Merchan expects opening statements to begin on Monday.

Alex Woodward contributed to this report.

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