Jury Selected For Manafort Trial: Opening Statements To Start Soon

Photo by Getty Images/ SHAWN THEW

ALEXANDRIA, VA — Jury selection finished early Tuesday afternoon in the Paul Manafort trial in Alexandria, Virginia. After the jury of six women and six men — plus an alternate jury of one man and three women — was chosen, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis announced at recess until 2:45 p.m. ET. After jury instructions are given, opening statements are expected later Tuesday afternoon.

Manafort is facing charges of bank fraud and tax fraud as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. He has pleaded not guilty. The allegations stem mostly from his consulting work in Ukraine.

Manafort, in a black suit, was present in the courthouse Tuesday, as was his wife, Kathleen.

Before starting the jury selection process, Judge Ellis commented briefly on a request from Manafort to exclude from the trial nearly 500 pages of the prosecutors’ evidence related to his Ukraine work. Ellis said he would not resolve the issue quite yet, but offered a set of conditions for the evidence to be considered admissible. He said he hoped the prosecutors would take into account these conditions and reduce the amount of evidence they plan to introduce. He said that he agreed with the prosecutors and thought they were correct in arguing that evidence from the Ukraine work was relevant to show that Manafort earned income that he should have reported.

But, “the fact that documents are relevant is not the end of the inquiry,” the judge said, warning against evidence that is confusing or prejudicial. He instructed the government to elicit testimony to show the relevance of evidence before it is introduced.

Ellis said he did not want “a data dump” into the record on the assumption that the jury is going to look at it without any testimony.

The jury “voir dire” — as the process of orally questioning the jurors is called — moved much more quickly than many observers were expecting. The judge asked the potential jurors if they had relationships or affiliations with Mueller’s team, with the Justice Department more broadly, with Manafort’s attorneys, or with the attorneys’ private law firms. A handful of the potential jurors said they had a relationship with the Justice Department, though none ended up on the jury or among the alternates.

The bulk of the morning and early afternoon was spent with more than two dozen potential jurors answering the judge’s questions at his bench, where the press and the public could not hear the discussion.

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