How Donald Trump's hush money trial team is using social media to weed out New York jurors

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The Trump trial team has found a powerful weapon in their efforts to come up with a winning jury in his New York criminal hush money case: social media.

Two men were struck from consideration Tuesday after former President Donald Trump's team uncovered social media posts that Judge Juan Merchan concluded raised concerns when it comes to fairness and impartiality in the trial.

One potential juror posted "Get him out and lock him up" about the former president, after celebrating that a court struck down a Trump travel ban. When the man was questioned about it and said he didn't still believe Trump should be "locked up," Trump flashed a smirk.

"I don't think that I can allow this juror to remain," Merchan said.

The other man who was excused posted a parody video featuring Trump that was titled, "I'm dumb as f---." He also posted "no one is above the law" about Trump's separate criminal case dealing with his handling of classified documents.

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The victories for Trump came as he faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. Prosecutors say the records were designed to cover up a hush money payment made to porn star Stormy Daniels in order to unlawfully interfere with the 2016 presidential election. Trump has pleaded not guilty.

Jury consultant: Social media is like a 'polygraph test'

Prospective jurors may not have realized that their social media posts from years ago would be picked over in front of the national media, but jury consultant Jo-Ellan Dimitrius said it's common in high-profile cases in which people in the jury pool may have publicly expressed opinions about the defendant.

Dimitrius, who has worked on many high-profile trials such as the 1994-1995 O.J. Simpson murder trial, told USA TODAY in advance of Trump's trial that social media would be a key tool in evaluating responses to the list of 42 questions Merchan decided on for potential jurors.

"I would align it to a polygraph test," Dimitrius said. "By looking at their oral responses to the questionnaire, and then comparing that to what they may have on social media, you can see if they are being forthcoming, or if they may be hiding something."

There remains the risk that potential jurors eager to get on the jury will realize their social media could be checked and erase things in advance, according to Dimitrius. She expressed concern that Merchan released the juror questionnaire publicly days before jury selection started on April 15. At this point, there is also media coverage of the role social media has played in selection.

More potential jurors are scheduled for questioning Thursday.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out: You're summoned for jury duty in criminal court in New York City on April 15. Well, guess what trial you're being summoned for?" she said.

"The frightening component of that though – and I've seen this in cases that I've been involved in – is oftentimes there is the juror who may go back and delete some of their social media commentary that may point to a different opinion than they're delivering in court," Dimitrius said.

Some New Yorkers survive social media examination

The Trump team didn't get Merchan to strike all the potential jurors they wanted gone based on social media activity.

Merchan allowed a potential juror to stay in consideration despite posting a video on Facebook of anti-Trump celebrations outdoors on a street. Trump lawyer Susan Necheles described the video as "clearly an anti-Trump event that she's out celebrating and partying at."

Before the woman was questioned, Merchan agreed it was an anti-Trump event, but said it wasn't clear she herself was there. Upon questioning, the potential juror said she remembered seeing the event as she was walking outside, and maintained she could be fair and impartial in the case.

Another jury candidate was allowed to stay after Merchan said her posts were satire and she had been fairly open about disagreeing with Trump on politics. Yet another potential juror was allowed to remain after the Trump team took issue with a post by her husband, which Merchan said was from eight years ago.

Getting to stay in consideration doesn't mean a potential juror will actually make it onto the jury. Both Trump and the prosecution have 10 "peremptory strikes" they can use on potential jurors, which allow them to have a jury candidate dismissed for almost any reason. By the end of Tuesday, each side had four strikes left.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How the Trump trial team is using social media to weed out NY jurors