Home Politics Closing arguments, jury instructions and perhaps a verdict? An important week...

Closing arguments, jury instructions and perhaps a verdict? An important week is coming up in the hush money trial against Trump

Closing arguments, jury instructions and perhaps a verdict?  An important week is coming up in the hush money trial against Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — Testimony in Donald Trump’s hush money trial in New York has all wrapped up after more than four weeks and nearly two dozen witnesses, meaning the case is entering the crucial final stretch of closing arguments, jury deliberations and possibly a verdict.

It’s impossible to say how long all that will last, but in a historic trial that has already had its share of memorable moments, this week could easily be the most important.

Here’s what you can expect in the coming days:


Starting Tuesday morning, prosecutors and defense attorneys will have their last chance to address the jury in closing arguments that are expected to last much of the day, if not all of it.

The arguments do not count as evidence in the case in which Trump is accused of falsifying company records to cover up hush-money payments during the 2016 presidential election to a porn star who claimed she had a sexual encounter with him a decade earlier. Instead, they will act as hours-long summaries of the key points the lawyers want to convey to the jurors before the panel disappears behind closed doors for deliberations.

Look for prosecutors to remind jurors that they can rely on the financial paperwork they have seen and the witnesses they have heard from. That includes porn actor Stormy Daniels, whose story about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump is at the heart of the case, and Trump’s former lawyer and personal fixer Michael Cohen, who testified that Trump was directly involved in the hush money scheme and authorized payments.

It’s worth remembering that the defense, which only called two witnesses but not Trump, doesn’t have to prove anything or convince jurors of Trump’s innocence.

To avoid a conviction, the defense simply has to convince at least one juror that prosecutors have not proven Trump’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard for criminal cases.

Expect the defense to try to poke holes in the government’s case by disputing Daniels’ testimony about her hotel suite meeting with Trump and by distancing Trump from the mechanics of the refunds to Cohen, who was responsible for the $130,000 payment dollars in hush money to Daniels.

The defense can also argue for the last time that Trump was most concerned about protecting his family from salacious stories, not winning the election, when it comes to the hush money paid.

And it will certainly damage the credibility of Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the payment and who was accused by Trump’s lawyers of lying even while on the witness stand. How much of his testimony the jury believes will go a long way in determining the outcome of the case.

Because the prosecutor has the burden of proof, she will deliver the summary last – the reverse order of the opening statements, in which the prosecutor went first.

One last thing before the jury deliberates

There will be a crucial moment, perhaps Wednesday morning, before the jury begins its deliberations.

Judge Juan M. Merchan is expected to spend about an hour instructing the jury on the law governing the case, and providing a roadmap of what the jury can and cannot consider when assessing the guilt or innocence of the Republican former president.

In a sign of how important these instructions are, prosecutors and defense attorneys engaged in a lively debate last week outside the jury’s presence as they tried to convince Merchan of the instructions he should give.

For example, the Trump team asked for an instruction to inform jurors that the types of hush money payments at issue in Trump’s case are not inherently illegal, a request that one prosecutor called “completely inappropriate.” Merchan said such an instruction would go too far and is unnecessary.

Trump’s team also asked Merchan to take into account the “extremely important” nature of the case when giving his instructions and to urge jurors to reach “very specific findings.” Prosecutors also objected, and Merchan agreed it would be wrong to deviate from the standard instructions.

“If you say it’s a very important case, you’re asking me to change the law, and I’m not going to do that,” Merchan said.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, asked for instruction that a person’s status as a candidate does not have to be the sole motivation for making a payment that benefits the campaign. Defense attorneys asked to tell jurors that if a payment was made even if the person was not active, it should not be treated as a campaign contribution.

Once the jury gets the case

The deliberations will take place in secret, in a room reserved specifically for jurors and in a process that is deliberately opaque.

Jurors can communicate with the court through notes in which, for example, the judge is asked for legal advice or to have certain excerpts of testimony read out. But without knowing what judges say to each other, it’s difficult to understand the meaning of any note.

It is anyone’s guess how long the jury will deliberate and there is no time limit. The jury has to review 34 cases of falsification of corporate documents, so that could take some time, and there may not be a verdict by the end of this week.

To reach a verdict, guilty or not guilty, all twelve jurors must agree with the decision before the judge accepts it.

Things become more difficult if the jury cannot reach a consensus after several days of deliberation. Although defense attorneys may demand an immediate mistrial, Merchan will likely engage the jurors and instruct them to keep trying for a verdict and be willing to reconsider their positions without abandoning their conscience or judgment just to get along with others to come along.

If the jury is still unable to reach a verdict after that instruction, the judge has the option to deem the panel hopelessly deadlocked and declare a mistrial.


Associated Press writers Jennifer Peltz, Michael R. Sisak and Jake Offenhartz in New York contributed to this report.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Exit mobile version