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Judge Merchan: Jury Doesn’t Need Unanimous Verdict to Convict Trump

NEW YORK (AP) — Jury deliberations in Donald Trump ‘s criminal hush money trial began Wednesday after the panel received instructions from the judge on the law governing the case and what they can take into account in evaluating the former president’s guilt or innocence.

The historic deliberations followed Tuesday’s whirlwind of closing arguments, which stretched into the evening hours as prosecutor Joshua Steinglass accused Trump of intentionally deceiving voters by allegedly participating in a “catch-and-kill” scheme to bury stories that might obliterate his 2016 presidential bid. Steinglass further suggested that Trump operated with a “cavalier willingness” to hide payoffs and did so in a way that left “no paper trail.”

Former President Donald Trump sits in Manhattan Criminal Court in New York, Wednesday, May 29, 2024. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)

The defense approached its summation much in the same way it approached cross-examination: by targeting the credibility of star witness Michael Cohen. Defense lawyer Todd Blanche branded Trump’s former lawyer as “the greatest liar of all time” while urging jurors to quickly acquit his client.

Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, charges which are punishable by up to four years in prison. He has denied all wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.

At the heart of the charges are reimbursements paid to Cohen for a $130,000 hush money payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels in exchange for not going public with her claim about a 2006 sexual encounter with Trump.

Prosecutors say the reimbursements were falsely logged as “legal expenses” to hide the true nature of the transactions.

The case is the first of Trump’s four indictments to reach trial and is the first-ever criminal case against a former U.S. president.

Currently:

  • Cohen’s credibility, campaigning at court and other highlights from closing arguments
  • Rallies and debates used to define campaigns. Now they’re about juries and trials
  • Biden’s campaign shows up outside Trump’s trial with Robert De Niro and others
  • Another big name will be at the courthouse in Manhattan on Wednesday: Harvey Weinstein
  • Trump hush money case: A timeline of key events

THE JURY HAS BEEN SENT TO DELIBERATE. WHAT EXACTLY DOES THAT MEAN?

Jury deliberations proceed in secret, in a room reserved specifically for jurors and through an intentionally opaque process.

Jurors can communicate with the court through notes that ask the judge, for instance, for legal guidance or to have particular excerpts of testimony read back to them. But without knowing what jurors are saying to each other, it’s hard to read too much into the meaning of any note.

It’s anyone’s guess how long the jury in Donald Trump’s hush money case will deliberate for and there’s no time limit either. The jury must evaluate 34 counts of falsifying business records and that could take some time. A verdict might not come by the end of the week.

To reach a verdict on any given count, either guilty or not guilty, all 12 jurors must agree with the decision for the judge to accept it.

Things will get trickier if the jury can’t reach a consensus after several days of deliberations. Though defense lawyers might seek an immediate mistrial, Judge Juan M. Merchan is likely to call the jurors in and instruct them to keep trying for a verdict and to be willing to reconsider their positions without abandoning their conscience or judgment just to go along with others.

If, after that instruction, the jury still can’t reach a verdict, the judge would have the option to deem the panel hopelessly deadlocked and declare a mistrial.

TRUMP: ‘MOTHER TERESA COULD NOT BEAT THESE CHARGES’

Former President Donald Trump told reporters after jurors began deliberating in his criminal hush money trial that the charges were rigged and again accused the judge of being conflicted. He further said that “Mother Teresa could not beat these charges.”

“What is happening here is weaponization at a level that nobody’s seen before ever and it shouldn’t be allowed to happen,” Trump said.

Trump repeated accusations that the criminal charges were brought by President Joe Biden’s administration to hit him, as the president’s main election opponent.

TRUMP MUST STAY IN THE COURTHOUSE

After jurors left the courtroom to begin deliberations, Judge Juan M. Merchan told Donald Trump and his lawyers that they were required to remain in the courthouse.

“You cannot leave the building. We need you to be able to get here quickly if we do receive a note,” Merchan said.

After Merchan left the bench, Trump turned and walked to chat with his son, Donald Trump Jr. and lawyer Alina Habba.

MERCHAN ADDRESSES ALTERNATE JURORS

After the main jury in Donald Trump’s hush money case left the courtroom Wednesday, Judge Juan M. Merchan told the six alternates who remain in the courtroom that they will remain on standby in the courthouse as deliberations get underway.

He thanked them for their service and diligence, noting he saw one of the alternates go through three notebooks.

He said, “There might be a need for you at some point in deliberations.”

The alternates will be kept separate from the main jury and must also surrender their phones to court officers while deliberations are in progress. If a member of the main panel is unable to continue, an alternate can take that person’s place and deliberations will begin anew.

Ben Collis is a freelance journalist for the Trending Politico covering trending human interest/social media stories and the reactions real people have to them. He always seeks to incorporate evidence-based studies, current events, and facts pertinent to these stories to create your not-so-average viral post.
Ben Collis
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