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The selection of alternate jurors in Trump's N.Y. criminal trial resumes Friday

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Twelve New York City residents now hold Donald Trump's fate in their hands.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

As his New York criminal trial nears the end of its first week, the judge and lawyers have selected his jury. Today, they'll continue looking for alternate jurors just in case. Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts related to payments made to adult film actor Stormy Daniels. He spoke briefly with reporters outside the courtroom yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: Justice is on trial. You know, the whole world is watching this New York scam.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR political reporter Ximena Bustillo has been at the courthouse this week, joins us now from New York. Ximena, so what can you tell us about the jurors who have been selected?

XIMENA BUSTILLO, BYLINE: Well, there are 12 jurors and one alternate already chosen, but they do need five more alternates. More than 190 people have been questioned so far, and 100 more are coming in today, this morning. One thing that has been really interesting is seeing the diverse swath of New Yorkers share details about themselves, with some lighthearted moments ahead of a very serious trial. One juror, when asked if she knew any lawyers, she said that she dated one and the relationship ended, quote, "fine." Another insisted that he used a flip phone, so he doesn't watch podcasts. And, yes, he said watch. Some lamented their lack of hobbies as well when asked about them.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, so fun at a felony trial, I guess. Now, the goal, though, is to seat a fair and impartial jury. So how are they doing that?

BUSTILLO: Well, the first thing that the judge has been asking is for them to raise their hands if they believe that they cannot be fair and impartial. Nearly 100 people this week raised their hands and were immediately excused. The next question is if they cannot serve for any other reason, and without question, a few others were then dismissed. Then begins the process of reading 42 questions from an agreed-upon questionnaire.

MARTÍNEZ: Ooh, what kind of questions?

BUSTILLO: Well, aside from their hobbies, they're being asked about their education, their occupations, their potential connections to Trump, such as attending a campaign event. And lawyers are asking additional questions, too. The Trump legal team has definitely done their research on these jurors. On Tuesday, there were some prospective jurors who were dismissed because of their social media history. One was dismissed after a discussion of her husband's posts about Trump dating back to 2016 that were critical of the former president. And yesterday, a different juror was brought back in to read out loud her social media posts that called Trump a narcissist, also from 2016, and she was ultimately not selected.

MARTÍNEZ: And Trump's just right there, right?

BUSTILLO: Yes, he is right in front of them. When the jurors walk in, they do see him and they answer these questions in front of him.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, at Trump's recent civil trials, he sometimes have gotten rebuked by the judges. What's he been like here so far?

BUSTILLO: Here he's actually been pretty quiet. Throughout this process, Trump will turn around to look at the jurors as they answer questions. He's often leaning over to talk to his lawyers, too. But you have to remember he's not really happy to be here. He has been arguing that this trial is interfering with his ability to campaign. He is running for the 2024 presidential race, and he's required to be here in court when it is in session four days a week. But he did have a campaign event after court in Harlem on Tuesday at a bodega, and he has a rally in North Carolina on Saturday night.

Apart from the scheduling conflicts, it's also just an uncomfortable environment. This is a pretty dingy Manhattan courthouse. It was cold, which Trump himself complained about, as did many jurors. And the judge noted it. It's confined, and we do have many weeks to go. It's expected that this trial will last at least six weeks.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, bring a sweater. That's NPR's Ximena Bustillo. Thanks a lot.

BUSTILLO: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF GEORGE BENSON'S "AFFIRMATION") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Ximena Bustillo
Ximena Bustillo is a multi-platform reporter at NPR covering politics out of the White House and Congress on air and in print.