The Challenges Of Jury Selection | Crooked Media
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April 18, 2024
What A Day
The Challenges Of Jury Selection

In This Episode

  • All 12 jurors have been seated in former President Donald Trump’s criminal hush-money trial in Manhattan. While jury selection continues today for alternates, the judge overseeing the case said opening arguments in the trial could come as soon as Monday. Former federal prosecutor Gene Rossi breaks down the challenges of seating a jury in such a historic, high-profile case.
  • Google announced late Wednesday that it fired 28 workers who staged sit-in protests at some of the company’s offices this week. The protests were organized by the group No Tech for Apartheid. They were demonstrating against a $1.2 billion joint contract with Amazon to provide the Israeli government and military with cloud computing services.
  • And in headlines: Mutliple news outlets reported that Israel launched a strike on Iran, House lawmakers will again take up a bill to potentially ban TIkTok, and sports icons Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird are set to produce a queer soccer romance called “Cleat Cute.”

 

Show Notes:

 

 

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Friday, April 19th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.

 

Juanita Tolliver. And I’m Juanita Tolliver and this is What a Day where we’ve got a box of matches for the House Freedom Caucus. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, the conservatives have started a group to make sure that GOP leaders aren’t making moves to curb their power. They are calling it the Floor Action Response Team, which is FART for short. 

 

Juanita Tolliver. It’s almost like no one gave this any substantive thought. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: No. 

 

Juanita Tolliver. Messaging. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: None at all. 

 

Juanita Tolliver. None of that. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: None at all. [music break]

 

Juanita Tolliver. Before we get to today’s show, we want to bring you some breaking news as we record just after 11 p.m. eastern Thursday night. Israel has launched a retaliatory missile strike against Iran. Multiple news outlets cite unnamed U.S. officials who confirmed the news. Iranian news sources say explosions were heard near a military base in a region south of the capital city of Tehran, and that Iran’s air defense systems were activated in multiple locations. The attack was in response to Iran’s strike on Israel last week and prior to this news, Iran’s president warned on Wednesday that if Israel attacked, it would provoke a quote, “massive response.” Meanwhile, a Bloomberg reporter tweeted that Israeli officials told the U.S. on Thursday that, quote, “they plan to retaliate in the next 24 to 48 hours.” Also, Israel’s military said alert sirens have been activated near its northern border with Lebanon. This is a fast breaking situation and those are the details we have at the moment. But keep up with more of the news by following Crooked on Instagram and more. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: But first, today, jury selection continues in former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial in Manhattan. Thursday was the third day of jury selection, and all 12 jurors were confirmed, along with one alternate. And the process now continues. They needed a total of six alternates to move forward, and Justice Juan Merchan is planning to have opening arguments begin early next week.

 

Juanita Tolliver. Ooh I love this urgency, this pace. But–

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. 

 

Juanita Tolliver. Picking a jury has been anything but simple in this case. Several potential jurors were turned away over the past few days for a variety of reasons. Can you recap some of the drama leading up to this point where we now have a full jury seated for the trial? 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, definitely. A lot of drama to get here. So earlier this week we talked about how on day one of jury selection, it ended with no jurors. Justice Merchan also barred both legal teams from asking the jury pool about their political affiliation, who they voted for in the past and who they plan to vote for in November. But even with these guardrails in place, dozens of people were turned away after they indicated that they could not be impartial in the case against the former president, which isn’t hard to believe. You’d be very–

 

Juanita Tolliver. Right. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: –hard pressed to find anyone capable of putting aside strong opinions in this case. 

 

Juanita Tolliver. Trump has been found liable of sexual assault, incited an insurrection, he’s a known racist and predator. These are just a couple of reasons why being impartial seems outlandish. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Just a couple. 

 

Juanita Tolliver. Impartiality wasn’t the only reason people were turned away. Some potential jurors expressed concerns for their own safety. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, Justice Juan Merchan dismissed a juror on Thursday after she said that people had figured out who she was just based on how she was described in the press. She told the court that her concerns about being identified would impact her ability to be impartial, which is a scary situation to be in. Like, you know, you not only have to find jurors, but they’re suddenly potentially in the crosshairs of people who are upset with them for whatever decision they end up making here. So as someone who didn’t go to law school, I wanted to get a lawyer’s perspective on all of this. So I called up former federal prosecutor Gene Rossi. He was an attorney for the US Justice Department for nearly three decades. He’s also a legal analyst for the Law and Crime Network. I started by asking him what prosecutors are looking for in a juror, and how that differs from what Trump’s lawyers want in a juror. 

 

Gene Rossi: The common goal that both sides should strive for is you want jurors that will apply the law to the facts of the case as they see it, without any influence from what I call the family of emotion. And the four members of the family of emotion are bias for one side, prejudice against a side, empathy with any party or witness or sympathy. Because when a prosecutor presents a case to a jury, they want just the facts. The defense oh my God, the defense wants the members, four members at least of the family of emotion in that jury room. They want somebody who has a bias or a prejudice, hopefully a bias for your client and a prejudice against the government. They want that sympathy, that empathy. And of course, a defense attorney wants to keep out those jurors who hate Donald Trump or even hints at that. They obviously have to keep those people out of the courtroom. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: In this particular case, prosecutors and defense attorneys have been picking a jury that’s supposed to be fair and impartial, of course, but we have Donald Trump, the most polarizing politician in America, polarizing figure across the world. How can attorneys know if someone’s actually willing to, you know, put their biases aside? How are they assessing these people? 

 

Gene Rossi: That is a phenomenally good question. And it gets to how frustrating and challenging jury selection can be. Every jury selection, you’re never going to get a six inch biography of a juror. You’re only going to get little tidbits, red flags and loud gongs, good and bad, when a prosecutor or a defense attorney is picking a jury. 80% of it is gut. It’s based on experience, intuition, and what scares me even today is you’re only seeing a tip of the iceberg with respect to that juror. But you have to make a decision in real time. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Right. And part of that iceberg that we’ve been seeing here are potential juror’s social media posts. Trump’s team actually dismissed many potential jurors for posts that they’ve made previously, some from as far back as his first run in 2016. On Thursday, according to Politico, one juror was dismissed after Trump’s lawyer presented years old social media posts in which the juror wrote, quote, “We need to stop the election of a racist, sexist, narcissist” and quote, “I wouldn’t believe Trump if his tongue were notarized.” So could you explain a little bit about the role that social media plays in this process, and how attorneys go about deciding if these person’s posts make them unfit to serve as a juror in this kind of case? 

 

Gene Rossi: What I do in my cases now and probably in the last ten years is I would assign somebody to search Doctor Google for jury selection, and what that means is you can scour the public domain, you can scour Facebook, TikTok, whatever is available. And that’s fair game. And what the Trump people brilliantly did is they they really dug. That was an absolutely brilliant catch to get rid of that juror, because I assume that juror told the judge that she or he could be fair and impartial. And the Trump people had this post that I wouldn’t believe Trump even if his tongue were notarized. And if the judge does not dismiss that juror for cause, that’s an appellate issue. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Right. And on the flip side of that, we had another juror who said that she doesn’t like Trump’s persona, but then she also said, quote, “I don’t like some of my coworkers, but I don’t try to sabotage their work.” Trump’s lawyers tried to also challenge her, but she is still on the jury. So what happened there? 

 

Gene Rossi: The Trump people had an argument, but I think Judge Merchan probably said, okay, juror, you made some negative comments about President Trump or Mr. Trump. But putting that aside, you do know what your role is as a juror? Yes I do. And your role is to follow the law and to apply to the facts as you see it, correct? Yes. Now, juror, putting aside the comment you just made about Mr. Trump, can you do that and put aside your feelings that you just expressed? Can you still be, quote, “fair and impartial” in applying the law to the facts as you see them? I’ll guarantee you that judge said that, and I’ll guarantee the juror said, yes, I can do that. I think that would survive an appellate challenge. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Something else that came up is actually something you mentioned earlier. One juror was dismissed on Thursday after she said she feared for her safety after parts of her identity were made public in the media. Given the kinds of threats that Trump supporters have sent to judges, prosecutors and other officials, what guardrails has Justice Merchan put in place to protect the jurors in this case? I imagine there have to be some serious ones. 

 

Gene Rossi: Judge Merchan has imposed guardrails. He’s imposed the gag order. He’s imposed a gag order with limits about what Trump can say and about whom. In my view, he has crossed the line and he has violated that order on several occasions. And the last one he violated, the last incident was him retweeting or quoting Fox’s Jesse Waters about some cabal, some conspiracy that they’re trying to put on all these progressives who hate Trump and that there’s some scheme to poison a jury. Total baloney. And what bothers me is one, he violated the gag order because he’s attacking the whole jury pool. He’s antagonizing his followers. He’s [?] them up, and he should suffer consequences. Should he be put in jail? No. But should he be fined? Yes. And he should be told if you do this again, you will be incarcerated throughout the whole trial. Because you cannot intimidate jurors, either directly or indirectly. And what breaks my heart, this breaks my heart, is that juror was facing stress and emotion after she had been put into the jury box. And I have never seen a juror in my 30 years who is put into the box and picked. And then the next day or two days later said, I can’t do it because I’m afraid. That scares me. That embarrasses me. It tarnishes the integrity of the judicial process, whether it’s a state case or a criminal case. It really bothers me. I’m just worried that because of the fear that they could be harmed, harassed, hounded, tracked down like dogs, that some of these jurors who could be fair and impartial, are going to lean towards President Trump to cut him a break. And that’s not fair. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 

 

Gene Rossi: Just as it’s not fair that they bring these prejudices and biases, biases for the government, prejudices against Mr. Trump, and they use that to find him guilty. Is it a perfect system? No. Are influences going to be hard to suppress? Yes. But looking at the way Judge Merchan is picking his jury so far, I think we’re doing the best we can. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: That was my conversation with former federal prosecutor Gene Rossi. 

 

Juanita Tolliver. Thanks for that, Priyanka. Now let’s turn to more protests related to Gaza, this time in the private sector. 

 

[clip of protestors chanting] Google Google you can’t hide. We charge you with genocide. 

 

Juanita Tolliver. That was the sound of Google employees chanting during the demonstration at the company’s Sunnyvale, California, offices earlier this week that was posted online by ABC seven Bay Area News. The employees were protesting Google’s contract to provide the Israeli government and military with cloud infrastructure, artificial intelligence, and data centers. In response, late Wednesday night, Google’s vice president of global security announced that the company had fired 28 employees who participated in a multi-city simultaneous protest earlier this week in New York, Seattle, and Sunnyvale, California. According to the official memo reviewed by CNBC, Google investigated and terminated the employees after they, quote, “took over office spaces, defaced our property, and physically impeded the work of other Googlers.” They added that they will, quote, “continue to investigate and take action as needed.” The protesters denied the claims to Washington Post reporters, and expressed outrage at the fact that some of the employees who were fired didn’t even participate in the peaceful protest. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Wow. Okay, so can you explain for us what exactly happened at these protests and what we know at this point about the employees who were fired? 

 

Juanita Tolliver. These were peaceful sit in protests where employees occupied the offices of senior officials, including Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian. During the protest, they wrote their demands on whiteboards chanted and sat on the floor for hours before nine of the protesters were arrested on trespassing charges. The employees are part of a group called No Tech for Apartheid, and some of the workers who were arrested told CNBC that they were locked out of their accounts and placed on administrative leave during the protest. One fired employee told The Washington Post, quote, “this is a wildly disproportionate response to workers standing up for morality and for holding Google accountable for its own promises.” That employee was referring to the fact that no tech for apartheid has been protesting Google’s dealings with Israel via letter writing campaigns and other activations since 2021, and the swift firings are an atypical response. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: You mentioned Google’s dealings with Israel. Tell us about the specific deal that these employees were protesting. 

 

Juanita Tolliver. There were protesting Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion joint contract with Amazon and Google that sells technology and cloud computing services to Israel and its military. In a statement posted on Medium, No Tech for Apartheid organizers wrote that Project Nimbus has become, quote, “a major health and safe workplace conditions issue.” They also added, quote, “in the three years that we’ve been organizing against Project Nimbus, we have yet to hear from a single executive about our concerns,” and they intend to keep organizing protests until Google drops Nimbus. We’ll keep following this story, especially as the fired Google employees are considering legal recourse. But that’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break]

 

[AD BREAK] 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s wrap up with some headlines. 

 

Headlines. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: As we mentioned at the top of the show. Multiple news outlets are reporting Israel has launched missile strikes into Iran. The extent of the strike is not clear as of 11 p.m. eastern, we’ll continue to follow this story. Meanwhile, on Thursday, the U.S. and the UK slapped a new round of sanctions on Iran, punishing them for last week’s attack on Israel. America’s sanctions target more than a dozen people and entities in Iran responsible for the materials that were used in the drones deployed in the April 13th strike. The State Department announced it also placed a travel restriction on Iran’s delegation to the UN headquarters in New York, meaning that they can’t leave the two block radius around the building. 

 

Juanita Tolliver. Speaking of the U.N., on Thursday, the United States blocked the United Nations Security Council from granting Palestine full U.N. membership. The resolution was overwhelmingly supported in the Council. However, the rejection by the U.S., one of the council’s five permanent members, doesn’t mean that they necessarily oppose a Palestinian state, but that Palestinian statehood is an issue that should be tackled in negotiations between Israel and Palestine, not the United Nations. Here’s U.S. Ambassador Robert Wood. 

 

[clip of US Ambassador Robert Wood] As reflected in the report of the admission Committee, there was not unanimity among committee members as to whether the applicant met the criteria for membership, as set forth in article four of the U.N. charter. For example, there are unresolved questions as to whether the applicant meets the criteria to be considered a state. 

 

Juanita Tolliver. For over a decade, Palestine has been a part of the United Nations as a limited nonmember state. That means they’ll stay an observing participant for now. And an update on the protests on Columbia University’s campus. The New York Police Department arrested more than 100 people on the campus during the ongoing pro-Palestine protests. House Representative Ilhan Omar’s daughter Isra Hirsi, was among those arrested. Hirsi is a student at Barnard College. She was also suspended. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: A bill to potentially ban TikTok is back up for a vote in the U.S. House. Republican speaker Mike Johnson slipped it into the foreign aid package, which includes funding for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. The vote is expected Saturday, setting up a vote in the Senate as soon as next week. Also setting up a lot of these people to be not happy about having to work on a weekend. The House already passed a similar TikTok bill last month. This new version would give the Chinese owners of the app, ByteDance, up to a year to sell its stake in the app, or risk a ban in the U.S.. The original version gave them just six months. President Biden has said that he will sign a bill to ban TikTok. National security officials and lawmakers from both parties warned that TikTok could be a security threat for American users, though they presented little evidence backing up that claim. If you remember my conversation with Louise Matsakis back when this was originally in the news, we get into this, we’re going to link that in our show notes. I highly recommend taking a listen to that because it is very interesting. TikTok says that a ban would violate the First Amendment. It would also violate my ability to enjoy my free time. So I am [laughter] I’m not thrilled I could say. 

 

Juanita Tolliver. I appreciate your commitment to the cause friend. [laugh] Sports icons Megan Rapinoe and Sue bird are taking their talents to the small screen. The duo is set to produce a queer soccer romance through their production company called Cleat Cute. It’s a scripted series about a rookie professional soccer player who falls for her team captain. I love this– 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Love it. 

 

Juanita Tolliver. –so much. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Love it. 

 

Juanita Tolliver. It will be based on author Meryl Wilsner’s bestselling novel of the same name. In a statement, Bird and Rapinoe said, quote, “having spent most of our lives on teams, we want to celebrate the ways in which relationships, both romantic and platonic, are organically created through sports. Cleat Cute will not shy away from the messiness, occasional frustration and undeniable beauty that come with loving the game and the players within it.” There’s no word on when it will be released, but we cannot wait. I promise you, I will be front and center. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yes!

 

Juanita Tolliver. Also I love that they’re like, we’re not going to shy away from the messiness. So wherever this lands, I want drama, drama, drama. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. 

 

Juanita Tolliver. I feel like this would make a perfect addition to Hallmark’s catalog. Just saying.

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Okay, well, um you and I differ there because I’m like, I want this on a regular real streamer. This seems like actual quality content. 

 

Juanita Tolliver. Not real?

 

Priyanka Aribindi: No real real. I mean, especially with Megan and Sue attached. Like it will be accurate in terms of like the actual sport. Like it’ll be a–

 

Juanita Tolliver. 100 percent. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: –good story. I’m excited. This is already gonna be my new favorite TV show. 

 

Juanita Tolliver. I’m also wondering if they’re casting actual soccer players. Like that would be dope. Like, who wants to get their acting chops? Who wants to move from the field to the screen? I love this, this is exciting. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: This is my replacement for Ted Lasso. I there’s a [laughter] soccer ball shaped hole in my heart and this will fill it. 

 

Juanita Tolliver. And those are the headlines. 

 

[AD BREAK]

 

Juanita Tolliver. That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review, make a queer WNBA rom com too, and tell your friends to listen. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: And if you are into reading and not just the future, according to my TikTok tarot readers like me. What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.

 

Juanita Tolliver. I’m Juanita Tolliver.

 

[spoken together] And don’t trust a FART in Congress. 

 

Juanita Tolliver. Eew. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: There are a lot of them.

 

Juanita Tolliver. I do appreciate that this allows me to be a juvenile for a moment because seriously, no one thought about this?

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Come on, come on. [music break] What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our associate producers are Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf. We had production help today from Leo Duran, Greg Walters, and Julia Claire. Our showrunner is Erica Morrison and our executive producer is Adriene Hill. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka. 

 

[AD BREAK]