The Latest | Trump’s criminal trial to enter deliberations phase after jury receives instructions

2 weeks ago 34

NEW YORK (AP) — Jury deliberations in Donald Trump ‘s criminal hush money trial are expected to begin Wednesday after the panel receives 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 follow 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.”

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

Here’s the latest:

WHO IS ON THE JURY?

The jury in Donald Trump’s hush money trial is comprised of 18 Manhattan residents.

The main jury includes seven men and five women. There are also six alternate jurors who’ve listened to the testimony, but won’t join in the deliberations unless one of the main jurors needs to drop out or is removed.

The jury represents a diverse cross-section of the borough and come from various professional backgrounds, including a sales professional, a software engineer, a security engineer, a teacher, a speech therapist, multiple lawyers, an investment banker and a retired wealth manager.

Jurors’ names are being kept from the public.

A RECAP OF TESTIMONY JURORS HEARD IN THE CASE

Across more than four weeks of testimony, prosecutors called 20 witnesses. The defense called just two.

Among the prosecution’s key witnesses: Trump’s former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, porn actor Stormy Daniels, tabloid publisher David Pecker and lawyer Keith Davidson, who negotiated hush money deals for Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Cohen testified that he paid $130,000 in hush money to Daniels at Trump’s behest weeks before the 2016 election to keep her quiet about her claims of a sexual encounter with him a decade earlier. Trump denies the encounter took place. Cohen also said Trump was involved in an arrangement to repay him and log the payments as legal expenses.

Daniels gave an at-times graphic account of the alleged encounter.

Pecker testified about agreeing to be the “eyes and ears” of Trump’s campaign by tipping Cohen off to negative stories, including Daniels’ claim.

Davidson talked about negotiating the deals and what he said was Cohen’s frustration after the Daniels deal that Trump still hadn’t repaid him.

The defense’s big witness was attorney Robert Costello, who testified last Monday and Tuesday about negotiating to represent Cohen after the FBI raided Cohen’s properties in 2018.

HOW WILL THE JURY DELIBERATIONS WORK?

Jury deliberations in Donald Trump’s hush money trial will proceed in secret, in a room reserved specifically for jurors and in a process that’s intentionally opaque.

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.

ANOTHER FAMOUS FACE AT THE COURTHOUSE

Donald Trump will not be the only big name appearing before a judge in lower Manhattan on Wednesday — fallen movie mogul Harvey Weinstein is expected to appear for a hearing related to the retrial of his landmark #MeToo-era rape case.

The hearing will take place in the same courthouse where Trump is currently on trial and where Weinstein was originally convicted in 2020.

Weinstein’s conviction was overturned in April after the court found that the trial judge unfairly allowed testimony against Weinstein based on allegations that weren’t part of the case. His retrial is slated for sometime after Labor Day.

A MOTION THAT STILL HASN’T BEEN DECIDED

The judge in Donald Trump’s hush money trial might have one last piece of business to address on Wednesday before jurors receive instructions and can begin deliberations.

Last Monday, defense lawyers filed a motion asking the judge to dismiss the case, arguing that prosecutors had failed to prove their case and there was no evidence of falsified business records or an intent to defraud.

Prosecutors rebutted that assertion, saying “the trial evidence overwhelmingly supports each element” of the alleged offenses, and the case should proceed to the jury.

Judge Juan M. Merchan did not indicate at the time when he would issue a decision on the request. More than a week later, it remains unclear whether he will address it before the case goes to the jury.

WHAT MUST BE PROVED FOR A CONVICTION?

Jurors in Donald Trump’s hush money trial are expected to begin deliberations on Wednesday after receiving instructions from the judge on the law that governs the case and what they can consider as they strive toward a verdict in the first criminal case against a former U.S. president.

The panel has a weighty task ahead of them — deciding whether to convict or acquit Trump of some, all or none of the 34 felony counts he’s charged with.

But what had to be proved for a conviction?

To convict Trump of felony falsifying business records, prosecutors had to convince jurors beyond a reasonable doubt that he not only falsified or caused business records to be entered falsely but also did so with intent to commit or conceal another crime. Any verdict must be unanimous.

To prevent a conviction, the defense needed to convince at least one juror that prosecutors didn’t prove Trump’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard for criminal cases.

If the jury deadlocks after several days of deliberations and are unable to reach a unanimous verdict, the judge may declare a mistrial.

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