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Jury in E. Jean Carroll Defamation Case Will Be Anonymous

Donald Trump sexually assaulted (or raped, depending on the exact definition of rape) E. Jean Carroll. When she went public with that, he called her a liar. She sued him for defamation and was awarded $5 million earlier this year for comments Trump made in 2022. After the trial was over, he defamed her again and she added his latest comments to her existing suit for comments he made in 2019. He's a slow learner.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan has already ruled that Trump indeed defamed her with the comments made both in 2019 and at a town hall this year. In January, a jury will determine how much he has to pay her now. We suspect that some members of the jury are going to say something like: "This time he knew exactly what he was doing, he knew he was defaming her, and he did it anyway. Let the bidding start at $10 million." Then other jurors raise the bid to $15 million, then $20 million, and who knows where it ends.

Kaplan already knows that Trump will try to intimidate the jury. That's how Trump operates. So the judge has now ruled that the jury will be anonymous. During the trial, neither Trump nor his lawyers nor the public will know who is on the jury. Presumably the jurors will either be seated behind a screen or will watch the trial on closed-circuit television in a room outside the courtroom. U.S. marshals will take them securely to and from the courthouse and protect them during breaks.

Trump is claiming presidential immunity. In other words, that defaming her was part of his job as president, so he can't be sued for simply doing his job. That didn't work last time and probably won't this time, especially if the jury sees him as an incorrigible repeat offender.

One difference with the first trial is this is scheduled to start Jan. 16, 2024. This is the day after the Iowa caucuses and in the heart of the primary season. What if the jury hits Trump with a whopping judgment and a week later he has to compete in the New Hampshire primary? Now this is a civil case, so there is no such thing as guilty or innocent, but we can imagine some ads in that period that gloss over the difference, as in: "Trump found guilty again and fined $X million." That wouldn't be literally true but many voters wouldn't notice the difference. Could it hurt him in New Hampshire? Maybe we'll find out. (V)

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