Trump judge flags Facebook post suggesting possible mistrial

Lawyers in the ex-president’s New York criminal case have been notified of a claim that, if valid, could indicate jury misconduct

The judge presiding over the New York criminal case in which former US President Donald Trump was found guilty of 34 felony charges has notified defense lawyers and prosecutors of a social media post indicating possible jury misconduct, raising questions over whether the verdict could be nullified.

Judge Juan Merchan sent a letter to attorneys in the case on Friday, flagging a comment that was apparently posted on the New York State Unified Court System’s Facebook page on May 29, the day before Trump’s guilty verdict was announced. The author, identified as Michael Anderson, said, “My cousin is a juror and says Trump is getting convicted. Thank you folks for all your hard work!!!”

Merchan gave no indication of whether he considered the post to be legitimate, and he didn’t ask the prosecution or defense teams to do anything in response. The judge said the court “became aware” of the pre-verdict comment and was therefore bringing it to the attention of parties in the case.

Jurors were given strict instructions not to discuss the case or their deliberations with anyone besides each other. If those rules were proven to have been violated, Trump could seek a mistrial to have his conviction thrown out based on jury misconduct.

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The jury deliberated from May 28 to May 30 before finding Trump guilty on all 34 counts of falsifying business records to boost his chances of winning the 2016 presidential election. Lawyers for the ex-president had unsuccessfully sought a change of venue in the case, arguing that they couldn’t get a fair trial with a jury in one of the most staunchly Democrat cities in the nation.

It’s not clear whether Anderson was actually related to one of the 12 jurors; nor has it been verified that he posted his message before the verdict was declared. Nevertheless, Trump supporters quickly seized on Merchan’s letter as further evidence that the trial wasn’t fair.

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“If true, this is likely headed to a mistrial because a juror isn’t allowed to discuss the case with family or friends like this,” conservative podcast host Robby Starbuck said. “Big deal.”

Former federal prosecutor Joyce Alene said that it was smart for Merchan to notify the parties of the potentially incriminating post and hold a hearing to resolve the issue. “Why does a clear record matter?” she asked. “Because Trump will raise this on appeal to argue for reversal. Now, both sides have notice of this issue, and there’s an opportunity to get all of the details and facts out so that if there is nothing to this, it won’t affect the appeal.”

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