A jury of his peers: A look at how jury selection will work in Donald Trump’s first criminal trial

NEW YORK — The historic criminal trial of Donald Trump will begin on Monday with a simple but extraordinary procedural step vital to American democracy. A group of ordinary citizens – Trump’s colleagues, in the eyes of the law – will be chosen to decide whether the former president of the United States is guilty of a crime.

The process of choosing a jury can take days. Lawyers on both sides of the case will have limited ability to try to shape the panel in their favor, but the court’s goal will not be to ensure that there is a partisan balance between Democrats and Republicans, or consists of people who are unaware of previous reporting on the trial.

The idea is to get people who are willing to put their personal opinions aside and make a decision based on evidence and the law.

Here are some factors that go into jury selection:

This jury will be made up exclusively of people who live in Manhattan, one of the five boroughs of New York City. All English-speaking U.S. citizens over the age of 18 who have not been convicted of a crime are eligible for jury service in New York. Court officials identify potential jurors from lists of registered voters, taxpayers, driver’s license holders, recipients of public benefits and other sources.

The pool of potential jurors for Trump’s trial will have been randomly selected. People can volunteer to be jurors, but they cannot choose which trial they will be in.

Jury service is mandatory, but you may be excused for a variety of reasons, including financial or medical issues.

Judge Juan M. Merchan will begin bringing a large group of potential jurors into his courtroom. He will then give a brief outline of the case and introduce the defendant, Trump, to the jury. The judge will then ask the potential jurors a critical question: Can they serve and be fair and impartial? Those who cannot do so are asked to raise their hands. For this trial, jurors who indicate they cannot serve or be fair will be dismissed.

Those who remain will be called in groups to the jury box, where they will be asked 42 questions, some with multiple parts.

The attorneys on each side will have a limited number of strikes they can use to exclude potential jurors they don’t like, without explanation. They can also argue that a particular juror should be excluded, but must get the judge to agree to dismiss that person.

The trial continues until twelve jurors and six alternates are chosen. If necessary, larger groups of potential jurors can be brought into the courtroom.

The judge will not allow the lawyers to ask whether potential jurors are Democrats or Republicans, who they voted for or whether they have given money to political causes. But there are several questions aimed at finding out whether people are likely to be biased against or in favor of Trump.

Amongst them:

“Do you have any political, moral, intellectual or religious beliefs or opinions that could prevent you from following the court’s legal instructions or that could influence your approach to this matter?”

“Have you, a family member or a close friend ever worked or volunteered for a Trump presidential campaign, the Trump presidential administration or any other political entity affiliated with Mr. Trump?”

“Have you ever attended a rally or campaign event for Donald Trump?”

“Do you currently follow Donald Trump on any social media site or have you done so in the past?”

“Have you, a family member or a close friend ever worked or volunteered for an anti-Trump group or organization?”

“Have you ever attended a rally or campaign event of an anti-Trump group or organization?”

“Are you currently following an anti-Trump group or organization on a social media site, or have you done so in the past?”

“Have you ever considered yourself a supporter of or belonging to any of the following: the QAnon movement, Proud Boys, Oathkeepers, Three Percenters, Boogaloo Boys, Antifa.”

Jurors are asked what podcasts and talk radio shows they listen to and where they get their news.

The judge has ordered that the names of the jurors be kept secret, an unusual but not unprecedented step in trials where there is a chance that jurors may be harassed or threatened during or after the trial. There is nothing to stop jurors from voluntarily talking about their experiences after the trial. While the case is pending, they are not allowed to talk about it to anyone.

Jurors in the trial will listen to testimony and decide whether Trump is guilty of any of 34 charges of falsifying company records. Their decision to convict or acquit must be unanimous. If they cannot agree on a verdict, the judge can declare a mistrial. If jurors have reasonable doubt that Trump is guilty, they should acquit him. If they convict him, the judge will be the one to decide the sentence, not the jurors.