Judge restricts access to jurors’ identities in Trump hush money trial


The New York judge presiding over former President Donald Trump‘s hush money case ruled Thursday that he’ll use an anonymous jury when the case goes to trial this month.

While Trump and attorneys in the case will know the identities of the jurors, their names will be shielded from the press and the public, Judge Juan Merchan said in his order, citing “a likelihood of bribery, jury tampering, or of physical injury or harassment of juror(s).”

The judge said his order applies only to jurors’ identities and addresses, and had been requested by prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney’s office and consented to by Trump’s attorneys.

“To be clear, the parties have not requested, and this Court has not agreed, to close the Courtroom during jury selection or at any other time during the proceedings. Access to the courtroom by the public and the press will not be tempered in any way as a result of these protective measures,” Merchan said.

He also granted a request by Trump’s attorneys to “minimize potential prejudice” to their client by not notifying the jurors of the protective measures and giving “neutral explanations” if they ask about them. He asked both sides to jointly submit “proposed neutral explanations” by March 15, and said if they can’t agree on language, to file separate suggestions by March 18.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin March 25.

Trump is charged with falsifying business records related to hush money payments that his then-attorney Michael Cohen paid to adult film actor Stormy Daniels in the closing days of the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump has pleaded not guilty in the case, which will be the first of four pending criminal cases against him to go to trial.

The Manhattan DA’s office had also asked Merchan to warn Trump “that any harassing or disruptive conduct that threatens the safety or integrity of the jury may result in forfeiture of Defendant’s access to juror names.” The judge said he will rule on that issue when he decides on the DA’s request for a partial gag order barring Trump from bashing witnesses and court staff members in order to “protect the integrity of this criminal proceeding.”

The trial will not be the first Trump case with an anonymous jury.

The New York federal judge who presided over writer E. Jean Carroll’s two defamation trials against Trump used anonymous juries, noting the former president’s often inflammatory rhetoric about the justice system and the threats from his supporters that sometimes follow.

“For purposes of this order, it matters not whether Mr. Trump incited violence in either a legal or a factual sense. The point is whether jurors will perceive themselves to be at risk,” U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who oversaw the defamation trials, wrote in a ruling last year. He also cited “the strong likelihood of unwanted media attention to the jurors, influence attempts, and/or harassment or worse by supporters of Mr. Trump [and/or by Mr. Trump himself].”


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