Jury in Donald Trump’s hush money case asks to repeat testimony as deliberations get underway

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The jury in Donald Trump’s hush money trial asked to repeat testimony on Wednesday, less than four hours after deliberations began in the first criminal case against a former US president.

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

The jury, consisting of seven men and five women, was sent to a private room just before 11:30 a.m. to reach a verdict in the landmark case. The jurors’ discussions will be secret, although they can send notes to the judge asking him to repeat testimony such as that given on Wednesday afternoon. That is also the way they inform the court of a verdict, or if they cannot reach an agreement.

“It is not my responsibility to review the evidence here. It is yours,” Judge Juan M. Merchan told jurors. He also reminded them of their commitment during the selection process to review the case fairly and impartially.

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 saying: “Mother Teresa could not refute this charge, but we will see. We’ll see how we do.â€

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

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In one message, written in all caps, he said: “I don’t even know what the charges are in this rigged case. I have the right to specificity, just like everyone else.’ He added: ‘€œThere is no crime!’

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

The charge, a misdemeanor, stems from restitution paid to then-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen after he paid $130,000 in hush money to porn actor Stormy Daniels to silence her claims that she and Trump had sex in 2006. Trump is accused of misrepresenting Cohen. ™s refunds as legal fees to hide that they were related to a hush money payment.

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

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

Crime prosecutors say Trump committed or concealed a violation of a New York election law that makes it illegal for two or more conspirators “to unlawfully promote or abet the election of any person to public office.” prevent.”

While the jury must unanimously agree that something illegal was done to promote Trump’s election campaign, they do not have to unanimously agree on what that illegal thing was.

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The jurors — a diverse cross-section of Manhattan residents and professional backgrounds — often seemed fascinated by testimony during 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 began deliberating after a marathon day of closing arguments in which a prosecutor spoke for more than five hours, underscoring the burden the district attorney’s office faces in establishing Trump’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

About half of that time a lawyer spoke; The Trump team does not have to establish his innocence to avoid a conviction, but must instead rely on at least one juror ruling that prosecutors have not sufficiently proven their case.

Earlier Wednesday, the jury received instructions in Merchan’s Law, which provided some guidance on factors the panel can use to evaluate witness testimony, including its plausibility, its consistency with other testimony, the witness’s demeanor on the stand and whether the person has a motive for lying.

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

The principles he outlined are standard, but perhaps even more relevant now that Trump’s defense has relied heavily on questioning the credibility of the prosecution’s key witnesses, including Cohen.

Merchan also instructed jurors on the concept of additional liability, under which a suspect can be held criminally responsible for the actions of someone else.

That’s a key part of the prosecution’s theory of the case, because while Trump was signing some of the checks in question, people working for his company were processing Cohen’s invoices and entering the transactions into the accounting system.

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To hold Trump liable for these actions, Merchan said jurors must find beyond a reasonable doubt that he solicited, solicited or directed those people to engage in that conduct and that he acted intentionally.

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

“But he set in motion a chain of events that led to the creation of false corporate documents,†Steinglass said.

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

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