Trump hush money trial: Jury begin deliberations after marathon closing arguments

NEW YORK (AP) — The jury in Donald Trump’s case silence, money test was asked to rehear his testimony Wednesday, less than four hours after deliberations began in the first criminal case against a former U.S. president.

All four requests included testimony related to a 2015 meeting at Trump Tower, during which a tabloid editor agreed to identify negative stories about Trump so they could be suppressed during his presidential campaign. Jurors wanted to hear accounts of that meeting from two participants: Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and personal fixer, and David Pecker, former publisher of the National Enquirer.

The jury of seven men and five women was sent to a private room shortly before 11:30 a.m. to start weighing a verdict in the historical case. Jurors’ discussions will be secret, but they can send notes to the judge asking to rehear the testimony, like the one sent Wednesday afternoon. This is also how they will inform the court of their verdict, or if they fail to reach one.

“It’s not my responsibility to judge the evidence here. It’s yours,” Judge Juan M. Merchan told jurors. He also reminded them of their commitment during the selection process to judge the case in a fair and impartial manner.

Trump struck a pessimistic tone after leaving the courtroom after an hour of reading jury instructions, repeating his claims of a “very unfair trial” and declaring: “Mother Teresa couldn’t beat these charges, but we will see. We’ll see how we get on.

Trump and his lawyers, along with prosecutors, were instructed to stay inside the courthouse during deliberations. While he waited behind closed doors, he continued to post a series of messages on his social media complaining about the trial and quoting legal and political commentators who see the case in his favor.

In one message, written in capital letters, he said: “I don’t even know what the charges are in this trumped-up case – I have the right to clarification, like everyone else. » He added: “There is no crime!” »

Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying his company’s business records as part of an alleged scheme to hide potentially embarrassing stories about him during his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential election.

The charge, a felony, stems from reimbursements made to Michael Cohen, then Trump’s lawyer after making a secret payment of $130,000 to porn actor Stormy Daniels to silence her claims that she and Trump had sex in 2006. Trump is accused of misrepresenting Cohen’s reimbursements as legal fees to hide that they were linked to a secret payment.

Trump has pleaded not guilty and claims Cohen’s payments were for legitimate legal services. He also denied the alleged extramarital sexual relationship with Daniels.

To convict Trump, the jury would have to unanimously conclude that he created a fraudulent entry in his company’s records, or that he caused someone else to do so, and that he made with the intent to commit or conceal another crime.

Criminal prosecutors say Trump’s committing or concealment constitutes a violation of a New York election law prohibiting two or more conspirators from “promoting or preventing the election of any person to public office by means illegal.”

Even if the jury must unanimously agree that something illegal was done to promote Trump’s election campaign, it need not be unanimous on the nature of that illegal thing.

The jurors – a diverse cross-section of Manhattan residents and professional backgrounds – often seemed fascinated by the trial testimony, particularly that of Cohen and Daniels. Many took notes and watched intently as witnesses answered questions from Manhattan prosecutors and Trump’s lawyers.

Jurors began deliberating after a marathon day of closing arguments in which one prosecutor spoke for more than five hours, highlighting the burden the prosecutor’s office faces in establishing Trump’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt .

A defense attorney spoke for about half that time; Team Trump does not need to establish his innocence to avoid a conviction, but rather must rely on at least one juror concluding that prosecutors did not sufficiently prove their case.

Earlier Wednesday, the jury received legal instructions from Merchan, who gave some guidance on the factors the panel can use to evaluate a witness’s testimony, including its plausibility, consistency with other testimony, manner whose witness took the stand and whether the person has a motive to lie.

But, the judge said, “there is no particular formula for assessing the truth and accuracy of another person’s statement.”

The principles he set out are classic, but perhaps all the more relevant given that Trump’s defense relied heavily on questioning the credibility of key prosecution witnesses, including Cohen.

Merchan also explained to jurors the concept of accessory liability, under which a defendant can be held criminally responsible for the actions of others.

This is a key part of the prosecution’s theory because, even though Trump signed some of the checks in question, people working for his company processed Cohen’s invoices and entered the transactions into his accounting system .

In order to hold Trump accountable for these actions, Merchan said jurors must find beyond a reasonable doubt that he solicited, requested or directed these people to engage in this conduct and that he acted intentionally.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass addressed collateral liability in his closing argument Tuesday, telling jurors: “No one is saying that the defendant actually hid behind a computer and typed out fake receipts or stamped fake invoices or printed out fake checks. »

“But it set off a chain of events that led to the creation of false business documents,” Steinglass said.

Any verdict must be unanimous. During deliberations, six alternate jurors who also attended every minute of the trial will be kept at the courthouse in a separate room in case they are needed to replace a juror who becomes ill or is unavailable. If this happens, deliberations will resume once the replacement juror is in place.


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