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Tags: donald trump | new york | trial | stormy daniels | michael cohen

Pivotal Week Looms in Trump's N.Y. Paperwork Trial

Monday, 27 May 2024 09:48 AM EDT

Testimony has wrapped up in former President Donald Trump's New York trial after more than four weeks and nearly two dozen witnesses, meaning the case heads to closing arguments, jury deliberations, and possibly a verdict.

It's impossible to say how long all of that will take, but in a landmark trial that's already featured its fair share of memorable moments, this week could easily be the most important.

Here's what to expect in the days ahead.


Starting Tuesday morning, prosecutors and defense lawyers will have their final opportunity to address the jury in closing arguments expected to last for much of the day, if not all.

The arguments don't count as evidence in the case charging Trump with falsifying business records to cover-up payments during the 2016 presidential election to porn actor Stormy Daniels, who alleged she had a sexual encounter with him a decade earlier. They will instead function as hourslong recaps of the key points the lawyers want to leave jurors with before the panel disappears behind closed doors for deliberations.

Look for prosecutors to remind jurors that they can trust the financial paperwork they've seen and the witnesses they've heard from. That includes Daniels and Trump's former lawyer and personal fixer Michael Cohen, who testified that Trump was directly involved in the hush money scheme and authorized payments.


The defense, which called only two witnesses but not Trump, doesn't have to prove anything or convince jurors of Trump's innocence.

To prevent a conviction, the defense simply needs to convince at least one juror that prosecutors haven't proved Trump's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard for criminal cases.

In closing arguments, expect the defense to try to poke holes in the government's case by disputing Daniels' testimony about her hotel suite encounter with Trump and by distancing Trump from the mechanics of the reimbursements to Cohen, who was responsible for the $130,000 payment to Daniels.

The defense may also assert one last time that Trump was most concerned about shielding his family from salacious stories, not winning the election, when it comes to the money that was paid.

The defense also certainly attack the credibility of Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the payment and who was accused by Trump's lawyers of lying even while on the witness stand. How much of his testimony the jury believes will go a long way in determining the outcome of the case.

Since the prosecution has the burden of proof, it will deliver its summation last — the reverse order from opening statements, in which the prosecution went first.

A critical moment will take place, perhaps Wednesday morning, before the jury begins deliberations.

Judge Juan Merchan is expected to spend about an hour instructing the jury on the law governing the case, providing guidance for what it can and cannot take into account as it evaluates the Republican former president's guilt or innocence.

In an indication of just how important those instructions are, prosecutors and defense lawyers had a spirited debate last week outside the jury's presence as they sought to persuade Merchan about the instructions he should give.

The Trump team sought an instruction informing jurors that the types of alleged hush-money payments at issue in Trump's case are not inherently illegal, a request a prosecutor called "totally inappropriate." Merchan said such an instruction would go too far and is unnecessary.

Trump's team also asked Merchan to consider the "extraordinarily important" nature of the case when issuing his instructions and to urge jurors to reach "very specific findings." Prosecutors objected to that as well, and Merchan agreed that it would be wrong to deviate from the standard instructions.

"When you say it's a very important case, you're asking me to change the law, and I'm not going to do that," Merchan said.

Prosecutors requested an instruction that someone's status as a candidate doesn't need to be the sole motivation for making a payment that benefits the campaign. Defense lawyers asked for jurors to be told that if a payment would have been made even if the person wasn't running, it shouldn't be treated as a campaign contribution.


The deliberations 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 example, 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.

It's anyone's guess how long the jury will deliberate for and there's no time limit. The jury must evaluate 34 counts of falsifying business records, so that could take some time, and a verdict might not come by the end of the week.

To reach a verdict, all 12 jurors must agree with the decision for the judge to accept it.

Things will get trickier if the jury can't reach a consensus after several days of deliberations. Though defense lawyers might seek an immediate mistrial, Merchan is likely to call the jurors in and instruct them to keep trying for a verdict and to be willing to reconsider their positions without abandoning their conscience or judgment just to go along with others.

If, after that instruction, the jury still can't reach a verdict, the judge would have the option to deem the panel hopelessly deadlocked and declare a mistrial.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

The testimony is wrapped up in former President Donald Trump's paperwork New York trial after more than four weeks and nearly two dozen witnesses, meaning the case heads into the pivotal final stretch of closing arguments, jury deliberations, and possibly a verdict.
donald trump, new york, trial, stormy daniels, michael cohen
Monday, 27 May 2024 09:48 AM
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