Sitting in judgment on Trump

Who'd want to be on this jury?

Donald Trump
Donald Trump looks on at Manhattan Criminal Court during his hush money trial in New York
(Image credit: Angela Weiss / Pool / AFP via Getty Images)

The only time I sat on a jury was in the early aughts, when I lived in Manhattan. It was a traffic-injury lawsuit: A man who spoke little English had apparently rear-ended a Queens woman, who was wearing a neck brace in court and was loudly irate about her injury. We the jury were the typical motley assortment of New Yorkers, from all ethnic backgrounds and income levels. The one thing we had in common was that we took our role as jurors seriously, working through the evidence until a different story of the accident emerged: The man had been stopped at a red light, and the woman gunned her car in reverse to smash into him, making it look like a rear-end collision so she could collect. It was a minor case, and the stakes were low. Even so, I came away from the experience with an extra bump of faith in the justice system and in my fellow Americans. 

So I believe that former President Trump can get a fair trial from Manhattan jurors in the hush-money case that opened this week. I expect them to take their responsibility to heart and to weigh the facts. Having said that... Would you want to be a juror on this case? I sure wouldn't. It's not merely that the stakes are high for the first former president to be charged with a crime. It's also that this particular defendant is extremely powerful and known to be vindictive. In this and the other three court cases against him, Trump has denounced the judges and prosecutors in vicious terms, all but inviting his MAGA supporters to become vigilantes — and they have done so. Death threats are now routine against the judges, their families, and their staffs. Many of these people have been swatted, and the courtroom where the trial is taking place has received multiple bomb threats. Will the jurors worry that if the evidence leads them to convict, an angry ex-president will sic a mob on them? That shouldn't be a danger in a nation governed by the rule of law, but that's how far we've fallen.

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Susan Caskie is The Week's international editor and was a member of the team that launched The Week's U.S. print edition. She has worked for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Transitions magazine, and UN Wire, and reads a bunch of languages.