Apr 14, 2024 - Politics & Policy

How celebrity lawyers would approach Trump's jury selection

Former US President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Schnecksville Fire Hall in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania, US, on Saturday, April 13, 2024.

Former President Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Schnecksville, Pa., on April 13. Photo: Hannah Beier/Bloomberg via Getty Images

While it may sound like an impossible feat to select a fair jury for the first-ever criminal trial of a former U.S. president, past high-profile trials provide clues on how it could eventually get done.

Why it matters: Lawyers from both sides of former President Trump's hush-money trial face a daunting task beginning this week to find 12 jurors and six alternates with few preconceived notions about their city's infamous business mogul.

Driving the news: Both parties' lawyers will use a variety of means to weed out any prospective jurors with seemingly unchangeable views about the indicted ex-president.

  • Former Harvey Weinstein defense attorney Arthur Aidala said that scouring prospective jurors' social media can be a helpful way to uncover any prospective strong views or underlying motives.
  • "You're looking for people who are posting their vacation pictures and are really big fans of the Rolling Stones and talking about how much they love the eclipse," he told Axios.

Zoom in: Jury selection in Weinstein's case took almost two weeks to complete.

  • "At least with Trump, there may be like 20% of the people who actually voted for him," Aidala told CBS News.
  • "With Harvey, 100% of the people were against him," he said.

State of play: Trump, who has denied wrongdoing in the case, has argued that the politics of Manhattan as one of the most liberal counties in the state of New York will make it difficult to find jurors that can be objective.

  • But the lawyers on both sides might actually be looking for similar characteristics in possible jurors, said Joshua Naftalis, a former federal prosecutor in New York and now a partner at Pallas.
  • "You really don't want jurors who bring something to the table, other than the fact that they have a general understanding Trump was the president."

To try to determine possible jurors' biases, lawyers are expected to ask about their media consumption, any personal ties to the Trump family and how much they already know about the trial to glean any biases.

  • At the crux of the lawyers' questioning is to discern whether the jurors' personal views could interfere with their ability to make a fair judgment.
  • "You are in a liberal state in New York so, obviously, you're going to assume that a lot of the political leanings of the potential jurors are going to be more liberal," attorney Camille Vasquez, who represented Johnny Depp in his defamation case in 2021, told NPR's Scott Detrow.
  • "I think you have to understand though whether or not their political leanings are going to affect their ability to listen to evidence in an impartial way," she said.

Between the lines: "I think we overstate how much people actually follow the news," veteran CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin who rose to fame covering the O.J. Simpson double-murder trial in 1995 told Politico.

  • "But Trump presents a unique challenge in that regard. It's one thing to be a famous football star — it's another thing to be president of the United States," he added.

The bottom line: The 18 jurors eventually selected will ultimately determine the legal future of the former president.

  • "You have to trust your gut," Vasquez told NPR.
  • "It's not like gambling, but you're looking at the potential jury in front of you and you're also looking at who's coming up next, who's on the bench that may fill in, and is that person potentially worse for you than the people that you have in front of you."

Go deeper: Appeals court denies Trump's bid to delay N.Y. hush money trial

Go deeper