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Jury deliberations begin in Donald Trump’s hush money criminal case

Jury deliberations begin in Donald Trump’s hush money criminal case

NEW YORK (AP) — Jury deliberations began Wednesday in Donald Trump’s hush money trial, putting the outcome of the historic case in the hands of a dozen New Yorkers who have vowed to be fair and impartial in the face of their unprecedented task.

The jury of seven men and five women was sent to a private room just before 11:30 a.m. to begin weighing a verdict in the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president. The jurors’ discussions will be secret, though they can send notes to the judge asking to rehear testimony or see evidence. That’s also how they will notify the court of a verdict, or if they are unable to reach one.

“It is not my responsibility to judge the evidence here. It is yours,” Judge Juan M. Merchan told jurors.

Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records at his company in connection with an alleged scheme to hide potentially embarrassing stories about him during his 2016 Republican presidential election campaign.

The charge, a felony, arises from reimbursements paid to then-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen after he made a $130,000 hush money payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels to silence her claims of an extramarital sexual encounter with Trump in 2006. Trump is accused of misrepresenting Cohen’s reimbursements as legal expenses to hide that they were tied to a hush money payment.

Trump has pleaded not guilty and contends the Cohen payments were for legitimate legal services.

To convict Trump, jurors must find beyond a reasonable doubt that he falsified or caused business records to be entered falsely and did so with the intent to deceive and the intent to commit or conceal another crime.

Under the law, if they do not find that prosecutors have proven one or both of those elements, they must acquit Trump. Prosecutors allege Trump falsified business records to hide breaches of campaign finance law and a violation of a state election law alleging a conspiracy to promote or prevent an election.

Just hours before the start of deliberations, Trump posted another all-caps rant about the trial, the judge and Cohen on his social media network before leaving Trump Tower for the courthouse Wednesday morning.

He called it a “Kangaroo Court!” and falsely claimed that the judge barred him from defending himself by claiming that his alleged actions were taken on the advice of his then-lawyer, Cohen. Trump’s lawyers in March notified the court that they would not rely on that defense.

“There was no crime, except for the bum that got caught stealing from me!” Trump said, apparently referring to Cohen. He added, again in all capital letters, “In God We Trust!”

The jurors — a diverse cross-section of Manhattan residents and professional backgrounds — often appeared riveted by testimony in the trial, including from Cohen and Daniels. Many took notes and watched intently as witnesses answered questions from Manhattan prosecutors and Trump’s lawyers.

Jurors started deliberating after hearing final pitches from the prosecution and defense in the form of closing arguments and after getting instructed in the law by the Merchan, who offered some guidance on factors the panel can use to assess witness testimony, including its plausibility, its consistency with other testimony, the witness’ manner on the stand, and whether the person has a motive to lie.

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

The principles he outlined are standard but perhaps all the more relevant after Trump’s defense leaned heavily on questioning the credibility of key prosecution witnesses, including Cohen.

Any verdict must be unanimous. During deliberations, six alternate jurors who also sat through 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 falls ill or is otherwise unavailable. If that happens, deliberations will start anew once the replacement juror is in place.


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