Two trump jurors dismissed in hush money trial, judge goes after media for reporting details

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Two of the seven jurors chosen Tuesday for Donald Trump’s New York hush money trial were abruptly excused Thursday after questions arose about the impartiality of one and the truthfulness of another.

A woman identified as Juror #2 raised concerns after the day off Wednesday about remaining fair and impartial because she was being contacted by friends and colleagues who suspected she was on the jury. Judge Juan Merchan asked reporters to limit their descriptions of potential jurors after her dismissal.

Prosecutors raised concerns about a man identified as Juror #4 possibly answering questions untruthfully about whether he or a close relative had been accused of a crime.

Merchan, prosecutors and Trump’s defense lawyers conferred confidentially with the man before the judge dismissed him.

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The jurors are anonymous, but lawyers know their names and addresses. Trump’s lawyers have successfully urged dismissal of some jurors for social media posts about the former president.

The departures were a setback for the trial estimated to last six to eight weeks. Merchan needs to seat 12 jurors and several alternates before embarking on opening arguments and hearing from witnesses.

“We just lost, probably, what probably would have been a very good juror for this case and the first thing that she said was she was afraid and intimidated by the press,” Merchan said after the woman's departure.

Merchan asked reporters not to report identifying details about jurors, such as the previously identified accent of one. Prosecutors suggested not asking about a potential juror’s current and former employers, but defense lawyers objected.

Merchan said he would have the employment information redacted from the court record and he asked reporters not to reveal the answers.

“I am directing that the press simply apply common sense and refrain from writing about anything that has to do, for example, with physical descriptions,” Merchan said.

Social pressure

In the woman’s case, she contacted the court because friends, colleagues and relatives were sending messages to her phone questioning her identity as a potential juror. She said she could no longer be sure she wouldn’t let outside influences affect her judgment in the case.

“I definitely have concerns now,” the woman said before Merchan dismissed her. “I don't believe at this point that I can be fair and unbiased and let the outside influences not affect my decision making in the courtroom."

Past arrests

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass raised a concern about whether the man answered questions accurately. Prosecutors discovered an article about someone with the same name who had been arrested in the 1990s for tearing down political advertisements.

Steinglass also questioned whether the man’s wife was involved in a corruption inquiry that resulted with her entering an agreement with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

Merchan, prosecutors and defense lawyers conferred with the man at the bench, out of earshot of reporters. One of Trump’s lawyers, Todd Blanche, chuckled at some of his first answers.

Merchan announced that some of the information shared was very personal and the judge was going to direct that portion of the published transcript be sealed.

"I will also note for the record that he expressed annoyance" at how information about him had gotten out there in the public, the judge added, speaking about the juror.

After giving lawyers time to confer, Merchan dismissed the juror.

Contributing: Aysha Bagchi

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: After Juror #4 and #2 dismissed, Trump trial judge chastises media