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Jury selection in the Trump trial resumes Thursday

FILE - Former President Donald Trump is pictured in a Manhattan criminal court ahead of the start of jury selection in New York on April 15, 2024. The first day of Trump's history-making trial in Manhattan ended Monday with no one yet chosen to be among the panel of 12 jurors and six alternates. Dozens of people were dismissed after saying they didn't believe they could be fair, though dozens of other prospective jurors have yet to be questioned. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/Washington Post via AP, Pool, File)

(CNN) — Jury selection in the first-ever criminal trial of a former US president has moved briskly, with the judge suggesting opening statements could begin Monday.

On Tuesday, after just a day and a half of jury selection, seven people from Manhattan were selected to judge the evidence in the New York case against former President Donald Trump.

Thursday, attorneys will pick up with a pool of nearly 100 jurors and begin questioning them until they seat a total of 12 jurors and as many as six alternates.

Four men and three women have been selected so far as jurors for the case. They include two attorneys, an oncology nurse, a software engineer, a schoolteacher who said she likes that Trump speaks his mind, and a grandfather who said he finds Trump fascinating and mysterious. The foreman is originally from Ireland and works in sales.

Trump faces 34 counts of falsifying business records to coverup payments made to bury an allegation of an affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election. Trump has denied the affair and pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Each side’s strategy for picking jurors has become clear.

Prosecutors have pressed jurors about whether they would be able to follow the judge’s instructions and if they could set aside any preconceived notions they might have about some witnesses with “baggage,” including a tabloid publisher, an adult film star, and a former lawyer (Michael Cohen) who has pleaded guilty.

They also asked jurors if they would be able to distinguish between believability and likability when evaluating their testimony.

Trump’s attorneys strove to understand the jurors’ opinions on the former president and whether they could truly set that aside. They also dug deep into social media history and uncovered posts, some several years old and others more recent, that led the judge to dismiss two potential jurors for cause.

In the roughly 10 hours that court was in session earlier this week, Trump occasionally closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair. At other times he tapped his attorney Todd Blanche on the shoulder to whisper in his ear or passed a note to him. In one moment they appeared to smile. While the attorneys questioned jurors seated in the jury box Trump turned his chair to face them as they answered questions. He met at least one juror’s eye as she walked in the courtroom, according to one potential juror who was dismissed.

In all, seven jurors were selected from a batch of 96, more than half of whom said they couldn’t be fair or impartial.

Jury selection process

Thursday morning, a new panel of 96 jurors, already sworn in, will return to the courtroom. The judge will ask two broad questions: whether any juror feels they can’t be fair or impartial, and whether they are unable to serve on the trial for another reason. The trial is expected to last at least six weeks.

The remaining jurors will then answer 42 questions on a questionnaire. Prosecutors and Trump’s lawyers get 30 minutes each to ask the first 18 jurors more specific questions, after which they will conduct strikes.

Both sides were given 10 peremptory strikes that they could use to excuse jurors. Trump and prosecutors used six on Tuesday, leaving them each with four strikes remaining.

Wednesday morning, Trump complained about the process on social media claiming he believed he had an unlimited number of strikes.

However, the number of strikes each party has is determined by law, and Judge Juan Merchan, who is overseeing the trial, informed the parties of the number of strikes during a pre-trial conference earlier this year, which Trump attended.

On Tuesday, Trump tested the limits of Merchan, who uncharacteristically raised his voice when he observed that the former president was muttering and gesturing toward the direction of one juror being questioned.

The judge stopped the proceeding and said he wanted to put that on the record, and then spoke to Trump’s attorney, saying, “I won’t tolerate that. I will not have any jurors intimidated in this courtroom. I want to make that crystal clear.”