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From Donald Trump to Karen Read—how does jury selection proceed in high-profile cases?

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image of Donald Trump attending the first day of his hush money trial in New York City on April 15, 2024.

This week, jury selection began in two high-profile cases: New York’s hush money trial involving former President Donald Trump, and a Massachusetts murder trial involving the girlfriend of a deceased Boston police officer, Karen Read. Many Americans know what it’s like to be summoned for jury duty — about 32 million are called to potentially serve every year. Only a fraction, or about 1.5 million, are actually impaneled in state court. But when it comes to criminal trials that have garnered significant public interest, such as the prosecution of a former president — an unprecedented moment for the nation — jury selection can be a long and tricky process.

For one, both the Trump and Read trials are buzzing with media attention. The peppering of questions intended to root out bias proceeds like it would in any criminal trial. But judges and attorneys are keen to impanel jurors who are capable of avoiding publicity, while setting aside any preconceived notions about the defendants to look at the case as objectively as possible, Northeastern experts say. That’s easier said than done, which is why the legal system provides attorneys and judges with several ways to vet members of the public who have been tapped to potentially sit on a jury — including those who might want to game the system, as some may be motivated to do in Trump’s criminal fraud trial. “We have built into the system that lawyers are entitled to challenge potential jurors in two ways,” says Jeremy R. Paul, professor at the Northeastern University School of Law. “One is based on cause, or when a lawyer hears something in a person’s voir dire that gives them reason to doubt their ability to be impartial.”

Read more at Northeastern Global News.

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