12 people decide Trump’s future: what elements do they have to declare him guilty or acquit him?

12 people decide Trump’s future: what elements do they have to declare him guilty or acquit him?
12 people decide Trump’s future: what elements do they have to declare him guilty or acquit him?

After the final arguments this TuesdayJudge Juan Merchán began this Wednesday’s session by giving instructions to the 12 jurors on how they should consider their decision on Trump’s guilt or not.

1. What is the focus of this trial and what are the parties saying?

Former President Donald Trump, in Manhattan criminal court as jurors wait to begin deliberations in his criminal hush money trial of porn star Stormy Daniels.


The Prosecutor’s Office charged Trump with 34 counts. In their indictment, prosecutors said Trump repaid payments Michael Cohen (then Trump’s personal lawyer) made to Stormy Daniels in the 2016 campaign to keep her from going public with the story about her alleged extramarital sexual encounter with Trump.

“In total, 11 checks were issued for false purposes. Nine of those checks were signed by Trump. Each check was processed by the Trump Organization and illegally disguised as a non-existent advance payment for legal services. In total, they were issued 34 false entries in New York business records to conceal initial covert payment of $130,000. Furthermore, the participants in the plan took measures that mischaracterized, for tax purposes, the true nature of the refunds,” the Prosecutor’s Office notes.

Prosecutors also accused him of falsifying business records to conceal a second crime related to a violation of state election law, since they consider that the payment to Daniels was a campaign expense, since it was intended to protect the image of Daniels. Trump as a candidate. The former president pleaded not guilty to 34 charges.

Trump’s defense largely focused on Michael Cohen, whose account is central to prosecutors’ case, being an unreliable witness because of his extensive history of lying. Furthermore, they indicate that Cohen was indeed Trump’s lawyer and that payments to Cohen were recorded for what they were: legal expenses.

2. What elements do jurors have to find Trump guilty?

Michael Cohen leaves his apartment building on his way to Manhattan Criminal Court, Thursday, May 16, 2024, in New York. He is prosecutors’ star witness against former President Donald Trump.

Credit: Andres Kudacki/AP

  • Michael Cohen Testimonial: Trump’s former lawyer, who was known as his ‘fixer’, was the prosecution’s star witness. Cohen paid $130,000 to buy the silence of porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal (the Playboy model who claims she had an extramarital affair with Trump for several months), he claims. on instructions from the former president. He acknowledged his guilt, in addition to having lied to Congress about another case. He was sentenced to 3 years in prison for violating electoral financing and tax evasion laws. His testimony is the basis of the accusation because it directly links Trump to what the Prosecutor’s Office described as an attempt to “deceive” the electorate by preventing these potentially damaging stories from becoming known given the proximity of the November 2016 elections. However, the prosecution affirms that it is not the only argument.
  • Stormy Daniels Testimonial: without a doubt, the most controversial witness of those presented by the prosecution. In his closing arguments Monday, prosecutor Joshua Steinglass acknowledged that the porn actress’s account of the encounter she says she had with Trump in 2006 was “embarrassing” to hear, but he believes that give truth and support to the accusation of conspiring to buy his silence and prevent the story from becoming known. In the end, although the case has nothing to do with that alleged sexual encounter, the Prosecutor’s Office considers that she was the “reason” for additional damage control to the leak of the ‘Access Hollywood’ video in the midst of the presidential campaign.
  • Damage control needed after ‘Access Hollywood’: the publication of that video, a clip secretly recorded in 2005, in which Trump boasted of being able to grope women because of his celebrity status, gender panic in Trump’s 2016 campaign as well as within the Republican Party. In fact, some considered the then businessman’s chance of winning the elections lost. The Prosecutor’s Office presented it as the “backdrop” that explains Trump’s need to minimize the damage suffered, preventing the stories of Daniels and McDougal from becoming known. Critical to the prosecution is that, at the same time that the then-candidate wanted to dismiss what was said in ‘Access Hollywood’ as simple “locker room conversation,” he was arranging payment to silence both women.

To find Trump guilty, all 12 jurors must agree that Trump is guilty beyond all reasonable doubt. This would make Trump the first ‘candidate – criminal’ in US history.

3. And what elements do juries have to acquit Trump?

Stormy Daniels leaves Manhattan Criminal Court.

Credit: CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images

Merchán instructed the jury by saying c How should they consider all the material they have? and advised that They will ignore any bias for or against Trump: “They must set aside any opinion or bias and must not allow any bias to influence their verdict.”

Because of this, the 12 jurors must rely only on the evidence and testimony presented at trial. What could lead jurors to acquit Trump?

  • The reasonable doubt: The jury can acquit Trump if it considers that there are reasonable doubts to convict him and they consider that the Prosecutor’s Office could not prove his guilt beyond any reasonable doubt. That was one of the lines in the closing arguments of Todd Blanche, Trump’s lawyer: He said prosecutors suggested there was some sort of scheme to falsify payments. and pointed to a document signed by Trump’s sons, Eric and Donald Jr, related to the payment to Michael Cohen. “Is there any accusation that they are part of the plan, of the conspiracy? That is a reasonable doubt. We (the defense) have no burden of proving anything… The Prosecutor’s Office makes the decisions about who to call at trial. They called Cohen. They didn’t call Don or Eric,” he said.
  • Lack of evidence: If the 12 jurors consider that the Prosecutor’s Office did not present sufficient evidence to establish Trump’s participation or knowledge in the payments to Stormy Daniels, they could acquit him. The defense tried to portray Trump as too busy, first as a businessman and then as president, to keep records of small transactions such as the refunds to Cohen. Regarding the signing of checks made by Donald Trump himself, his lawyers argued that he signed dozens of documents daily, but was not in charge of tabulating those payments. Then, to explain that in reality there was no falsification of payments to the porn actress, the lawyer said: “The fact that the invoices say they are services performed by Michael Cohen and the fact that he was performing services in 2017… all of that, ends the case: not guilty.”
  • Credibility of witnesses: If the credibility of key witnesses is considered by jurors to be unreliable, they may conclude that the Prosecutor’s Office has not met its burden of proof. Here, Trump’s defense devoted much of its time to attacking the credibility of Michael Cohen, the star witness. Blanche called Cohen the biggest liar of all time”: “He lied to Congress, he lied to prosecutors. He lied to his family and his business partners… he lied repeatedly. He lied many, many times before you even met him. Your financial and personal well-being depends on this case. “He is biased and motivated to tell you a story that is not true.”
  • Lack of intention: assuming that the juries consider that The evidence and testimonies have been sufficient to prove the case of the Prosecutor’s Office, here are, again, possible reasonable doubts:Did Trump intend to make the payments and influence the presidential election? The prosecutors’ argument at this point has been that Trump’s strategy, together with his newspaper friend the National Enquirer, was to trap and kill stories that were harmful. Prosecutors say the whole point of that was so voters wouldn’t have that information about his extramarital sexual encounters, because it could affect him politically.

4. Can there be no verdict?

If there is no agreement between the 12 members of the jury, the jury is ‘locked’. The judge can order them to keep trying to reach an agreement. But if they do not reach that point of unanimous agreement, the trial would be null and void. And it opens up the possibility of the Prosecutor’s Office re-presenting the case or not.

5. Could Trump go to jail?

While Trump’s defenders have sought a mistrial on multiple occasions, without success, what would follow a ‘guilty’ verdict is a safe appeal.

The judge is the one who would impose the sentence on Trump, if necessary. They can be up to four years in prison, they can be financial fines, or minor penalties. or a

Trump, who is 77 and has no prior record, is unlikely to go to prison, legal experts say.

Decisive week in the criminal trial against Trump: final arguments and possible verdict

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