NEW YORK — The names of the jurors will be kept secret during the upcoming civil trial in a lawsuit over the rape of a writer against former President Donald Trump, a judge ruled Thursday, citing “a very high risk” that they would otherwise face harassment and more.
Anonymous juries are uncommon, especially outside of criminal cases. The Associated Press and the Daily News of New York objected to the plan to hide the identities of jurors in the trial over columnist E. Jean Carroll’s claim — denied by Trump — that the Republican raped her in the 1990s.
But U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan said he was concerned jurors would be exposed to unwanted media scrutiny and “harassment or worse” from supporters of a president who railed against the judicial process, or from people who were dissatisfied with a judgment that might result.
“Based on the unprecedented circumstances in which this trial will take place, including extensive pre-trial publicity and a very high risk that jurors will fear harassment, unwanted invasions of their privacy and retaliation,” he wrote, “there is strong reason to believe that the jury needs the protection.
Carroll’s lawyers declined to comment. Trump attorney Alina Habba said she didn’t want jurors to “feel outside pressure or influence” during the trial, which is set to start late next month.
“Anonymity will ensure that their decision is based solely on the facts presented to them,” Habba said, insisting that those facts would “irrefutably vindicate” Trump.
In addition to keeping their names confidential, jurors will be transported to and from court during their breaks and sequestered from the public.
There is a history of federal courts finding that jurors’ names are public, reasoning that such openness quells possible public suspicions about the selection process. But courts have also allowed exceptions to protect the jury, sometimes in cases involving charges of terrorism, organized crime or prior jury tampering.
This winter, for example, anonymous juries were used in the federal criminal trials in Brooklyn of a New Yorker convicted of fighting for the Islamic State extremist group in Syria, and of a former Mexican cabinet-level official convicted of shielding violent drug cartels. against the police in exchange for huge bribes.
Carroll’s case is not a criminal one, although it involves an alleged rape. The former Elle magazine advice columnist says Trump forced himself on her in a dressing room at an upscale department store after they met by chance and joked about trying on lingerie.
Trump denies sexually assaulting or even knowing her, repeatedly adding that she is “not my type.”
They were photographed with their then-husbands at a social event in 1987, an image Trump has dismissed as a brief encounter he has no recollection of. He falsely identified Carroll as one of his ex-wives when he was shown the photo last year while being questioned under oath at the trial.
The Associated Press generally does not identify people who claim to have been sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Carroll has done.
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