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Trump Hush Money Trial Judge Scolds Press After Juror Is Dismissed Over Fears She Had Been Identified

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The judge in former President Donald Trump’s historic criminal trial in Manhattan scolded the press on Thursday for reporting information that could potentially identify jurors assembled for the high-profile case.

New York Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan, who is overseeing the trial, told news outlets to watch how they report on the jurors and forbade the press from reporting where jurors are employed. The ruling came after one juror was dismissed from the trial after expressing concerns that portions of her identity had been made public by the news media.

The juror told the judge she had concerns that she could not be impartial after those close to her asked if she was a juror on the case.

“I’m directing that the press simply apply common sense and refrain from writing about anything that has to do with physical descriptions, it’s just not necessary, it serves no purpose,” the judge said, according to pool report from the courtroom.

Concerns about the safety of prospective jurors are paramount in the first ever criminal trial of a former president amid a hyper-politicized atmosphere in the run up to the 2024 election.

“We just lost what probably would’ve been a very good juror,” Merchan added. “The first thing she said was she was afraid and intimidated by the press.”

Many news outlets have published stories about the jurors, including some general information about those selected for the trial. But some outlets, including Fox News, NBC, ABC, Politico and the New York Post, had gone a step further, reporting the specific employer of at least one of the jurors.

Merchan said on Thursday that he agreed with Trump’s attorneys that information about prospective jurors’ employers is important, but that he will direct those answers to be struck from the court record and for the press not to report on them.

“It’s become a problem,” Merchan said.

Former federal prosecutor Jeffrey Toobin told CNN that Merchan could hold news outlets in contempt if they publish identifying information about a juror.

“The First Amendment presents an almost total bar on telling people in advance what they can’t publish,” Toobin said. “The First Amendment doesn’t bar punishing people for what they do publish.”

Toobin said it is “incumbent” upon the press to let the process proceed and leave the jury alone, while also balancing the public’s right to know.

“It’s important to recognize that the public has a strong interest in everything about this trial, including the makeup of the jury, but that can be done in a way that preserves their anonymity,” Toobin added. (CNN)

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