The Trump Trials: Trump’s Jury Seems Nearly Set. How We Got Here.

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post
Former president Donald Trump speaks with attorney Todd Blanche as they return to Manhattan criminal court as jury selection continues.

And then there was a baker’s dozen – a full 12-person jury, plus one alternate.

Day 3 of jury selection in former president Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial began with seven sworn in. That number shrank to five after two jurors were removed, then jumped to 13, including the alternate, by the time court adjourned. Five more alternates are needed.

One juror who was chosen Tuesday came back to say she’d been contacted by friends who saw general descriptions about jurors in the media and recognized her as one of them. Given the deluge of attention, she no longer thought she could be impartial.

Prosecutors then said they thought they had discovered new details about another sworn-in juror that could be disqualifying. Both jurors were dismissed.

Court will be in session again Friday. New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan said he hopes to complete the process and have opening statements Monday.

Trump said it was freezing in the courtroom and the judge agreed but said there’s nothing that can be done. So grab a sweater and read our takeaways from Trump’s third day in court.

Nothing about this case is ordinary – even jury selection

The public is getting a window into the often complicated American jury selection process as the court tries to select people that all sides agree can be fair.

But this case stands out from most. Law professor Andrew Ferguson, who has written a book on jury duty – said it is rare for jurors to be struck because lawyers discover additional information after they are sworn in. But in a case like this, where jury selection has stretched for days, it makes sense that lawyers would take the extra time to investigate further.

And because this is Trump – as opposed to a less-famous criminal defendant – people have had years to form opinions and post publicly about him, so there is a lot of material to comb through.

The media exposure around the jurors, like the woman who was dismissed, is also unusual.

“We do not want jurors to feel external pressures that might sway them one way or the other,” Ferguson said in an email.

Prosecutors say Trump is still violating his gag order

Prosecutors argued to Merchan on Thursday that Trump has violated the court-imposed gag order seven times since Monday. They cited links he posted on social media to articles calling his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who is a key government witness, a “serial perjurer.” Prosecutors also complained that Trump shared a comment from Fox News commentator Jesse Watters claiming his team was “catching undercover liberal activists lying to the judge” during jury selection.

Trump’s attorneys denied the statements displayed any “willful violations” of the gag order, which they said contained some “ambiguities.” Trump is barred from publicly speaking about witnesses, prosecutors and prospective jurors and court staff involved in the case, as well as the families of Merchan and District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

He can discuss the judge and district attorney.

Enforcing a gag order on a presidential candidate is a high-wire act, and Trump has repeatedly tested the limits of this gag order. Merchan had said he would hold a hearing next week on whether to fine or sanction Trump.

The judge is worried about jurors and taking more steps to protect them

The names of prospective jurors are shielded from the media and the public. Merchan initially did not put any other restrictions on what news organizations could report on as jurors were questioned in open court. That is typical.

But after the first juror backed out Thursday morning, Merchan directed reporters not to publish the names of prospective jurors’ current or prior employers, even if they offer that information in court. He also told reporters to not write about anything “they observe with your eyes and ears,” such as a prospective juror’s physical appearance or accent.

“There is a reason why this is an anonymous jury and why we have taken the measures that we have taken and it kind of defeats the purpose of that when so much information is put out there that is very, very easy for anyone to identify who the jurors are,” the judge said.

New Yorkers have a unique relationship with Trump

Before he was president or even a reality television star, Trump was a celebrity real estate developer in New York City. Many of the Manhattanites questioned in court offered Big Apple-focused opinions about Trump.

One, a self-described wannabe hockey player, said he was grateful that Trump redeveloped a run-down hockey rink in Central Park in the 1980s that the city seemed incapable of fixing.

Another said she’s known about Trump her whole life and once spotted him and his ex-wife Marla Maples “shopping for baby things” at a high-end store decades ago. She said she also had a cousin who lived in Trump Tower and liked it.

But, the prospective juror said, “how I feel about him as a president is different.”

Question time

Q. How do peremptory challenges – or strikes – in jury selection work?

A. The judge and lawyers ask questions of the prospective jurors. If the judge thinks a specific answer disqualifies someone from being a fair juror, such as saying he has strong anti-Trump feelings, and cannot be impartial, the judge can remove – strike – that person.

Each side has 10 strikes of their own to use while picking jurors, plus two strikes while picking each alternate juror. (There are different numbers of strikes depending on how serious the charges are in a particular case). The attorneys do not need to provide a reason for deploying these challenges.