OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.
Commentators have taken notice of the judge’s decision to require jurors in the E. Jean Carroll case involving former President Donald Trump to maintain their anonymity.
The second defamation trial of the former president in New York has begun with jury selection. After a court found Trump civilly liable for defamation and sexual assault, journalist Carroll received $5 million in damages in May 2023.
Attorneys for Carroll are requesting an additional $10 million in compensatory damages and “substantially more” due to the former president’s persistent denial of the allegations that he assaulted Carroll in the changing room of a New York City department store in the mid-1990s. He claims he is unaware of Carroll’s identity and that she is not his “type.”
In a CNN town hall meeting, Trump also referred to Carroll’s account as “fake” and called her a “whack job.” Judge Lewis Kaplan found that Trump’s statements about Carroll were libelous in his ruling from early September.
Judge Kaplan said Trump will face an anonymous nine-person jury with the names, addresses, and places of employment of prospective jurors kept secret, saying he found “strong reason” to provide special protections for jurors at the civil trial.
He cited the Republican criticizing Carroll in public and the “extensive media coverage” of her case as well, as well as his conduct in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ civil fraud lawsuit against him, where Trump has been fined twice for violating a gag order with comments about his clerk.
If juror identities were disclosed, “there would be a strong likelihood of unwanted media attention to the jurors, influence attempts, and/or harassment or worse by supporters of Mr. Trump (and/or by Mr. Trump himself),” Kaplan wrote.
These measures were used in the first trial regarding Trump and Carroll. Jurors will also be transported together to and from the courthouse and looked after by U.S. marshals during breaks in the trial.
Writing on X, formerly Twitter, Harry Litman said anonymizing the jury showed “how much Trump has twisted and corrupted the system.”
Shades of “Reservoir Dogs”: Judge Kaplan instructs jury in E Jean Carroll defamation trial that they are anonymous and that they should refer to each other with fictitious names. Amazing how much Trump has twisted and corrupted the system.
— Harry Litman (@harrylitman) January 16, 2024
X user Christopher Webb said Judge Kaplan “is clearly not messing around” and suggested jurors should be concerned.
Life of an anonymous Trump juror…
The judge in the E. Jean Carroll defamation trial is clearly not messing around — but if I was juror and heard the judge say that the jurors should be anonymous even to each other, I would be processing in my mind how to get off that jury.… pic.twitter.com/lhVbB0oouS
— Christopher Webb (@cwebbonline) January 17, 2024
According to Glenn Kirschner, a former assistant US attorney and vocal critic of the previous president, the only two instances in which he had dealt with anonymous juries were those involving major criminal organizations, and those were more than 30 years ago.
The “extraordinary security measures” he referred to in his YouTube video demonstrated that Trump “poses the kind of danger to jurors” that prompted Judge Kaplan to take action.
Additionally, he mentioned that if the jury had been named, Trump’s followers might have responded to social media posts denouncing them.
At the outset of the trial, Trump attacked Carroll on social media, accusing it of being “fake” and restating his assertion that he has never met Carroll.
Carroll will likely take the stand to testify when the case resumes on Wednesday.
Last week, the judge imposed several limits on what Trump and his legal team can say during an upcoming trial for defaming Carroll.
According to The New Republic, the trial for comments he made while president in 2019 in which he claimed that Carroll accused him of raping her so she could promote her memoir starts next week, on Tuesday. The presiding judge, Lewis Kaplan, has already determined that Trump is liable for defamation, meaning the trial is mostly to set damages.
“Kaplan issued an order Tuesday barring Trump and his lawyers from discussing Carroll’s choice of lawyer or who might be paying her legal fees. They are prohibited from making comments ‘concerning Ms. Carroll’s past romantic relationships, sexual disposition, and prior sexual experiences,’ and they cannot argue that Trump did not sexually abuse Carroll or act with actual malice when making his comments about her” the outlet reported.