Jurors in Trump rape and defamation case quizzed over whether they watched The Apprentice

Former Elle columnist E Jean Carroll has accused the former president of sexually assaulting and defaming her

Bevan Hurley
Daniel Patrick Moynihan United States Courthouse in New York
Tuesday 25 April 2023 20:36 BST
Jury selection to begin in Trump sexual assault lawsuit

Jurors in the Donald Trump civil sexual assault trial were asked about their political affiliations, news consumption, whether they watched The Apprentice and if they belonged to the Proud Boys or Antifa during jury selection at the US District Court in Lower Manhattan on Tuesday.

A panel of 48 prospective jurors were brought into the courtroom under strict secrecy as the civil battery and defamation trial began, relating to the alleged rape of author E Jean Carroll by Mr Trump in the mid-1990s.

Jurors were told they would remain anonymous throughout the trial to protect them from harassment and the invasion of privacy by Judge Lewis Kaplan.

He instructed them not to tell their families which trial they were hearing, or even divulge their real names to one another.

“If you’re normally a Bill, maybe go by John,” he said.

Ms Carroll listened intently as she sat in the front row dressed in a dark brown dress and white shirt, occasionally turning to smile at the public gallery. She was flanked by a team of four attorneys, including lead counsel Roberta Kaplan, who is no relation to the judge despite sharing the same surname.

Mr Trump’s all-male team of six attorneys and assistants sat in two rows behind them.

Judge Kaplan informed the prospective jury members of the basic details of the case. He then asked each a detailed list of questions to weed out possible biases.

These included questions about whether they or any members of their family or social circle knew either Mr Trump or Ms Carroll, if they had any professional dealings with the attorneys, or had read, seen or heard anything about the case that might impact their ability to come to an impartial decision.

All jurors indicated they were registered to vote. “How bout that folks, that’s terrific,” Judge Kaplan said.

They were also asked whether they had voted in the 2016 and 2020 elections, donated to Mr Trump, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden, or worked or volunteered in a political campaign.

A handful of jurors who indicated they had political allegiances were excused from the trial.

The jurors were then asked whether they belonged to a range of groups including QAnon, Antifa, Redneck Revolt, The John Brown Gun Club, the Communist Party of USA, the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters, Boogaloo Bois, the Ku Klux Klan or Trump Supporters NYC.

One juror was excused after indicating they would be unable to be impartial due to the MeToo anti-harassment movement.

The panel was then asked if they followed Mr Trump on social media, had Truth Social or Rumble accounts, or watched Mr Trump’s reality TV show The Apprentice.

They were also quizzed whether they had read Ms Carroll’s Elle magazine advice column Ask E Jean, had signed up for her Substack or followed her on social media.

One juror said he believed Mr Trump had been unfairly treated by the press, but said it would not influence their ability to remain impartial.

The original 48 in the courtroom had been whittled down to 35 by this stage.

Then followed a series of biographical questions for remaining jurors on their occupation, where they lived, their family life and “from which print, broadcast or other media do you get your news.”

Jurors’ answers ranged from Fox News and the Tim Poole podcast to the Provincetown Independent, CBS Evening News and “randomly, Google, anything on the internet”.

Some said they got their information from social media such as Instagram, TikTok and Facebook. Several others said they didn’t watch the news at all.

Both sets of attorneys had three strikes from the remaining 35 jurors.

Judge Kaplan reminded jurors not to do their own research or go “roaming through the halls of Bergdorf Goodman”.

He also explicitly barred anyone involved in the case from making statements likely to incite violence or civil unrest.

Just before 1.30pm, Judge Kaplan announced the nine-member jury panel had been selected and excused the remaining jurors.

Opening arguments were due to begin on Tuesday afternoon.

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