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Trump Judge Orders Media to Keep Juror Information Secret

Hours before swearing in a jury of 12 anonymous Manhattan residents chosen to hear the hush-money trial of former President Donald Trump, Justice Juan Merchan reacted to the loss of one previously selected juror by ordering reporters not to disclose certain identifying information about jurors that is aired in open court. The New York Times reports that its lawyers and others representing competing news outlets were likely to seek clarification of Merchan's order. Opening statements may begin as soon as Monday if the lawyers finish picking alternate jurors by then.

On Thursday, Merchan dismissed two jurors who had been chosen on Tuesday, one of whom expressed concern that enough information about her had been disclosed to allow her family to guess she was on the jury. Merchan then ordered the press to not report the answer to two queries on a lengthy questionnaire for prospective jurors: “Who is your current employer?” and “Who was your prior employer?” Justice Merchan also said that he was concerned about news outlets publishing physical descriptions of prospective or seated jurors, asking reporters to “simply apply common sense.” “It serves no purpose,” Merchan said about publishing physical descriptions, adding that he was directing the press to “refrain from writing about anything you observe with your eyes" if it's not in the official record. William P. Marshall, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill, said that Merchan’s order appeared “constitutionally suspect.” Marshall said that a landmark Supreme Court ruling in a 1976 case, Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart, struck down a trial judge’s ruling barring the news media from reporting information introduced in open court. “The presumption against prior restraint is incredibly high in First Amendment law,” Marshall said. “It’s even higher when it’s publishing something that is already a matter of public record.”


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