Would You Serve On a Donald Trump Jury?
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Would You Serve On a Donald Trump Jury?

Weighing civic duty, time considerations, and personal safety

New York City is currently hosting the first of potentially four criminal trials featuring Donald Trump as a defendant. The Jury selection process is arguably completed in his “hush money” trial, related to payoffs to two women to kill stories about their sexual affairs with Trump and not have their release affect the 2016 Presidential Election, which Trump won.

Most people try to avoid jury duty, which is generally regarded as an inconvenience. If your employer doesn’t pay you for your time away from your job, most courts offer a minimal stipend, usually less than you would make on or while operating a business. Many courtrooms are in downtown centers, and the cost of lunch may be more than the stipend.

I have always enjoyed jury duty. I served on a jury once in Jacksonville, FL, and the whole process took one day. Prospective jurors were seated early in the morning in a large room. Groups were sent to various courtrooms where a judge read instructions, and we were asked questions by defense lawyers and prosecutors. If you weren’t selected for that jury, you were sent back to the main room for consideration for another trial.

I was picked for a trial with two defendants on charges of burglary and grand theft. We heard the evidence from witnesses, and when both sides were finished presenting their case, our jury retired to a jury room and selected a jury foreman, who happened to be me. We ultimately found neither defendant guilty of burglary; one defendant was in possession of the goods and was found guilty of grand theft. The other was found not guilty of the grand theft charge. The pair had been under surveillance for some time, but prosecutors produced no testimony about seeing crimes committed.

I served once on a grand jury in Orlando. We served a 6-month term, meeting once every 3–4 weeks to consider whether people should be indicted for first-degree murder cases and those with political implications. During our term, we often heard coroners testify about deaths. We did return one no-true bill during one term on a 14-year-old Black boy who was thought to be a witness to a crime. He was being charged not because he committed the crime but to pressure him to testify against others. Overall, I enjoyed my service and, in most cases, would gladly accept jury duty again. I’d say my first jury service was a typical experience. People at my jobs and some family members knew I had served, and it was a dinner conversation topic for a couple of days. Being on one of the Trump juries will be something entirely different.

People don’t volunteer for jury duty. A pool of potential jurors is selected at random, typically from among registered drivers. Most jurors don’t want to be there, and most judges are reluctant to release jurors who don’t have excellent reasons. In the first Trump case, anyone claiming to be unable to overcome their bias can be excused with no further explanation needed.

The time commitment in a Trump trial will be exceptional. The trial is expected to last six to eight weeks. Jurors will be expected to sit quietly and remain alert while the court is in session. They aren’t allowed to discuss the case and will often be taken out of the courtroom while lawyers and the judge hold discussions the jury isn’t allowed to hear. Much of jury duty is boring, and the Trump case will have boring stretches as well.

There is a serious question as to how safe the jurors will be on Trump juries. The jurors in at least the first case are supposed to be anonymous. However, the publicly available information, including jurors' answers to 42 questions and the laser focus on them, is making anonymity unlikely, if possible.

“Although they intend to keep the jurors’ identities anonymous, it may not be completely possible,” said Cornell Law professor Valerie Hans.

Fox News host Jesse Watters took things a few steps further, highlighting extensive details about Juror №2, including her neighborhood, occupation, marital, and family status. Watters suggested one juror was an undercover liberal activist.

“I’m not so sure about Juror №2," said Watters. “Undercover liberal activists are trying to get on the jury”

Defendant Donald Trump paraphrased Watters’s quote while still attributing it to Watters in a post on Truth Social.

“They are catching undercover Liberal Activists lying to the Judge to get on the Trump Jury,” said Trump

Because profiles of all the jurors are available in multiple news outlets, many of the jurors will be outed, and assumptions will be made about their impartiality based on the information available. Here are three examples of information available to jurors. This information doesn’t come from Fox News but from CNN.

  • Juror two is an investment banker who has a Master’s degree. He lives with his wife and does not have any kids. He follows Trump’s TruthSocial posts as well as Michael Cohen on X, formerly known as Twitter. He said he’s followed Trump since he became president and has seen quotes from Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal.”
  • Juror five is a young Black woman who teaches English in a public charter school system. She has a Master’s degree in education, is not married and doesn’t have any kids.
  • Juror 11 was seated on the jury after Judge Juan Merchan denied Trump’s challenge to remove her for cause. Trump’s lawyers argued she should be dismissed because she said she does not like Trump’s “persona.” The juror works for a multinational apparel company, is not a native New Yorker, is not married, and doesn’t have kids. She doesn’t really follow the news but occasionally follows headlines and reads industry-specific publications.

Do you think the jurors' friends and co-workers will be unable to identify them based on this information? Despite a gag order placed on the former President, it seems he released the hounds on jurors he deems “undercover Liberal Activists.” From January 6th, 2021, we've seen that his followers are more than willing to comply.

I want to think I’d be just as willing to serve on a Trump jury as others I’ve served on. Truthfully, with all the views I’ve expressed about Trump, I wouldn’t survive a challenge from the defense, assuming they had any challenges left from the ten they were initially issued. I believe I could make a decision based solely on the facts presented in the trial, but I understand why others might not think so. I would have to consider the potential danger to myself and my family.

Judge Juan Merchan, overseeing the New York trial, directed reporters not to publish physical descriptions of the jurors. “There’s a reason why this is an anonymous jury and why we’ve taken the measures that we have taken," said Judge Merchan. It defeats the purpose of that when so much information is put out there.”

Grand jurors in Fulton County, GA, the site of a looming Trump trial, received anonymous online threats after their names were released. Those won’t be the jurors who sit in the election interference case in Georgia when it comes to trial. Georgis may reconsider making those jurors anonymous, given what happened previously.

America’s jury system has its problems. Personal attacks from an ex-president with some fanatical followers didn’t used to be one of them. Will the result be dictated by juror nullification, fear of retribution, or the facts? These things remain to be seen. Unfortunately, the trial won’t be televised, and Americans must rely on potentially biased sources to re-report the news.

This post originally appeared on Medium and is edited and republished with author's permission. Read more of William Spivey's work on Medium. And if you dig his words, buy the man a coffee.