Jury deliberations begin in Donald Trump criminal trial

Jury deliberations began Wednesday morning in New York prosecutors’ case against Donald Trump, the first criminal trial involving a former president.

Deliberations began after State Judge Juan Merchan finished instructing the 12-person jury on the laws they will consider in deciding the historic case. His teaching lasted a little over an hour. The jury could deliver its verdict as soon as Wednesday afternoon, but it could take days and even extend into next week.

At the end of his four-and-a-half-hour closing argument that stretched into Tuesday evening, prosecutor Joshua Steinglass told the panel: “You, the jury, have the ability to hold the defendant accountable. »

Americans across the country are eagerly awaiting the verdict, but the public has virtually no visibility into the jury’s deliberations, which are taking place behind closed doors.

Merchan asked the jury to put aside their personal feelings or opinions when deliberating the case and reminded them that, as with all criminal trials, it is the duty of the prosecution to prove guilt beyond any reasonable doubt.

“The accused is not required to prove that he is not guilty,” Merchan said.

He also asked jurors not to draw any conclusions from the fact that Trump himself did not testify, and he reminded the jury that a decision of guilt must be unanimous.

Merchan also added a number of specific instructions relating to the evidence, testimony and law at issue in the case, complicating the task of jurors, several of whom could be seen taking notes.

Trump, dressed in a navy blue suit and yellow tie, mostly maintained his usual pose, eyes closed and head tilted slightly back, although he appeared increasingly agitated as jury instructions continued.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office has charged Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records related to a hush money payment his lawyer Michael Cohen made to adult film star Stormy Daniels in the final days of the 2016 election. Prosecutors say Trump reimbursed Cohen through a series of payments falsely listed as legal expenses.

The prosecutor’s office was able to upgrade the charge, usually a misdemeanor, to a felony by alleging the records were false with the intent to cover up another crime. Steinglass suggested that Trump was trying to cover up a number of crimes, including violations of state and federal election laws.

Trump’s lawyer, Todd Blanche, told the jury: “President Trump is innocent. He committed no crime and the prosecutor did not meet the burden of proof. Period.”

He argued that the records were not false because Trump was not reimbursing Cohen for paying Daniels; Instead, he was paying for general legal services because Cohen was Trump’s personal lawyer at the time.

Steinglass called the story stunning, noting that Trump had already publicly admitted to repaying Cohen.

Cohen was prosecutors’ key witness, and Blanche told jurors he couldn’t be trusted because of his history of lying. “He’s literally like the MVP of liars,” Blanche said.

Steinglass acknowledged that Cohen had a history of lying, but said he often did so to protect Trump. That Trump’s lawyers tried to use these lies to undermine his credibility “is what some might call audacity,” Steinglass said.

The trial began with jury selection on April 15. Trump, who said before the proceedings began that he would “absolutely” testify, never took the stand in his own defense.

If convicted, Trump faces up to four years in prison.

A Secret Service official said the agency has “no plans at this time” if Trump is convicted and could potentially be taken into custody. “We are voluntarily maintaining these discussions given the deliberations,” the official said.

Meanwhile, Trump continued to pester his supporters on his Truth Social platform, calling himself the victim of a “witch hunt” and a “kangaroo court” overseen by “a corrupt and contradictory judge”, falsely suggesting that he was not allowed to vote. respond to the accusation.

Outside the courthouse, Trump supporters are gathering daily and their numbers are expected to increase as the verdict approaches.

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