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    In Trump's criminal trial, thanks to the courageous New Yorkers serving jury duty

    By Larry Strauss,

    27 days ago

    I actually wasn’t surprised when I read that half of the people in the initial jury pool for the New York criminal trial of Donald Trump said they were incapable of impartially judging the facts in this case. The former president is a polarizing figure in a profoundly polarized moment in the country.

    Even so, I find it disappointing and a little bizarre that so many people believe themselves incapable of setting aside their biases for the sake of doing their civic duty, and I find it troubling that television personalities posing as journalists on Fox News are baselessly speculating about a conspiracy of those selected for that jury concealing their political beliefs to plot a jury nullification against the former president.

    I suppose it seems naive to be outraged by anything disgorged by the Murdoch family media empire , and I understand that the most likely accurate interpretation of their claims is disappointment at the unlikelihood – and perhaps some festering hope – that at least one juror on this case is secretly plotting the opposite: Ignoring evidence to acquit Trump or cause a mistrial because they support him and don’t care about the truth or the law.

    Trump is on trial on 34 counts of falsifying business records . Judge Juan Merchan has said that closing arguments are set for next Tuesday, with jury deliberations to follow .

    Jury service is a vital civic duty
    Former President Donald Trump at his trial on May 21, 2024, in New York City. The defense has rested after calling just two witnesses in the criminal hush money trial. The jury is set to begin deliberating the following week. Curtis Means/Pool photo

    No one doubts that there are those who hate the former president or fear a second Trump presidency, and that there are those loyal to Trump and hate President Joe Biden who would also ignore the facts or the law and insist on the outcome that supports their political views, regardless of the evidence.

    And I’m not sure that any of them – those who, were they empaneled on the jury, would vote to convict no matter what and those who would vote to acquit no matter what – deserve to live in a democracy.

    Presidential polls are useless. Will Trump win? Will Biden? Nobody has a crystal ball.

    We all have opinions. We all have biases. We all have emotions. But is it so hard to impose discipline on those emotions and opinions and biases?

    I’m pretty sure most of us are outraged whenever we hear about law enforcement officers, teachers, doctors or judges allowing their biases to influence their work. Should the bar not be at least as high for the vital civic duty of jury service?

    Trump's attorneys probably would have dismissed me

    In the New York trial against Trump, I don't doubt that at least some prospective jurors said what they said to avoid serving. I have been called for jury service at times that were inconvenient to me, and I have seen people say outrageous things so they could go home.

    And I suppose the honesty of those who didn’t think they could deliberate fairly in this case is commendable. Perhaps the pervasive inability to transcend one’s views, especially about Trump, is understandable in the age of news bubbles and social media algorithms.

    Opinion alerts: Get columns from your favorite columnists + expert analysis on top issues, delivered straight to your device through the USA TODAY app. Don't have the app? Download it for free from your app store .

    Yet it's no less disappointing for me, after 32 years trying to persuade students to always consider multiple perspectives and to demand – of themselves and everyone else – that any assertion be supported by evidence.

    I can understand the lawyers in this case not trusting that everyone is capable or willing to set aside their feelings toward Trump or disregard everything they’ve read and seen about the case. Perhaps they would have dismissed me – if for no other reason than the unflattering things I wrote about Trump when he was president.

    But I am confident that were I on this jury in Manhattan, I could deliberate based on the evidence and not my opinion of the defendant.

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    As citizens of this country, if we are proud of the ideals, however unrealized, of the U.S. Constitution, shouldn’t we at least try to live up to them? Who among us hasn’t set aside our feelings for some higher purpose?

    Athletes don’t always like their teammates, but they’ll transcend their grudges to win.

    Politicians across the spectrum ignore their own ideology to appeal to the largest constituency.

    So do husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons for the sake of domestic tranquility.

    Why is objectivity so hard to accomplish for the sake of justice and democracy?

    Thanks to those courageous New Yorkers who did step up with a willingness to do the hard and potentially dangerous work of hearing this first ever criminal case against a former U.S. president and deliberating with a commitment to transcend politics and personality.

    Larry Strauss, a high school English teacher in South Los Angeles since 1992, is the author of more than a dozen books, including “ Students First and Other Lies: Straight Talk From a Veteran Teacher ” and his new novel, " Light Man. "

    You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page , on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter .

    This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: In Trump's criminal trial, thanks to the courageous New Yorkers serving jury duty

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