May 30, 2024

Judge rejects Trump’s attempt to delay hush money trial over pretrial publicity

Seth Wenig/AP/File

Judge Juan Merchan poses for a picture in his chambers in New York on Thursday, March 14.


Judge Juan Merchan has rejected yet another attempt by former President Donald Trump to delay his criminal hush money trial set to begin in New York on Monday.

Merchan issued an order Friday denying a motion from Trump’s attorneys to delay the trial due to excessive pretrial publicity. The ruling is hardly a surprise, and the latest in a series of decisions by the courts this week rejecting Trump’s 11th hour attempts to stop his first criminal trial.

“The remedy that Defendant seeks is an indefinite adjournment. This is not tenable,” Merchan wrote Friday. “The situation Defendant finds himself in now is not new to him and at least in part, of his own doing.”

Trump’s attorneys made the request to file the motion at a pretrial hearing last month. Merchan had already denied a similar attempt but allowed them to file the motion anyway.

Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records over the reimbursement of hush money payments made before the 2016 election to an adult film star alleging an affair a decade earlier. Trump has pleaded not guilty and denied the affair.

Jury selection in the trial begins Monday.

Trump’s attorneys Friday also asked Merchan to alter his plans for handling jury selection – just three days before the historic trial is set to get underway.

On Monday, Merchan outlined how he would handle jury selection, advising that he would ask the pool of potential jurors whether anyone felt they couldn’t be fair or impartial or otherwise serve in the case and then excuse those who raised their hands without inquiring further.

In a letter Friday afternoon, Trump’s attorneys said that approach is “inadequate because the plan would not create a sufficient record for the purpose of any necessary appellate review, or a venue-change motion.”

Instead, they are asking the judge to distinguish between jurors who said they can’t be fair and those who are otherwise unable to serve.

“That clarity is necessary so that President Trump can present arguments to the First Department, if and when necessary, regarding the number of potential jurors who believed they harbored a disqualifying bias before questioning, as well as the number of additional potential jurors who reveal a disqualifying bias during questioning,” Trump’s legal team wrote.

On Friday Trump’s lawyers also argued the jury questionnaire lacks a question to “identify potential jurors who align with rival political parties that are not necessarily ‘anti-Trump’ but could still support a disqualifying bias that is worth of follow-up inquiry by the defense.”

If Merchan doesn’t amend the questions, Trump’s lawyers ask that they be allowed to ask additional questions to explore any affiliations. The judge has not ruled on the latest request.

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

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