Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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Jury begins deliberations in Donald Trump’s criminal corruption trial

Jurors in Donald Trump’s criminal trial for buying a porn star’s silence began deliberations Wednesday, meeting behind closed doors to evaluate the evidence and testimony heard and observed over the past five weeks.

It is not expected how long it will take for jurors to reach a verdict in the first criminal trial of a US president.

Trump, 77, is accused of falsifying business records to cover a payment to a porn star shortly before the 2016 presidential election. He has pleaded not guilty and denies any wrongdoing.

“Mother Teresa could not reject these accusations,” she told reporters in court, referring to the late Nobel Peace Prize winner. “The whole thing is manipulated.”

Shortly before deliberations began, the judge overseeing the trial told jurors that they could not rely solely on the testimony of the key witness, Michael Cohen, who played a central role in the payment at the heart of the case.

Judge Juan Merchan told jurors to scrutinize Cohen, Trump’s former handyman, because he testified that he was directly involved in Trump’s alleged attempt to cover up payments to porn star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election.

“Even if you conclude that Michael Cohen’s testimony is credible, you cannot convict the defendant solely on the basis of that testimony unless you conclude that it was corroborated by other evidence,” Merchan said.

Merchan’s comments were part of his detailed instructions to the 12 jurors and six reserves who sat silently in a New York courtroom for weeks as prosecutors laid out their case and Trump’s lawyers tried to overturn it.

“You have to put aside any personal opinions or biases you may have for or against the defendant,” Merchan said.

A guilty verdict could overturn the presidential election. Trump, the Republican nominee, is trying to take back the White House from Democratic President Joe Biden on November 5.

Merchan’s briefing highlighted the key role of Cohen, who was Trump’s lawyer and handyman for about a decade before the two fell out.

Cohen said in a deposition that she paid $130,000 of her own money to stop Daniels from telling voters about the alleged sexual encounter with Trump that she said occurred 10 years before the 2016 election.

Cohen said in the deposition that Trump approved the payment and agreed after the election to a plan to repay Cohen with monthly payments disguised as legal fees.

Trump’s lawyers have argued that jurors cannot trust Cohen, a convicted felon with a long history of lying, to tell the truth.

In his closing arguments Tuesday, prosecutor Joshua Steinglass presented jurors with voicemails, emails and other documents that he said corroborate Cohen’s testimony.

A conviction will not stop Trump from trying to take back the White House. Nor will it prevent him from assuming office if he wins.

Opinion polls show Trump and Biden are in a tight race. But the Reuters/Ipsos poll found that a guilty verdict could resonate with independent Trump voters and some Republicans.

A not guilty verdict would remove a major legal barrier, freeing Trump from having to juggle court appearances with campaign activities. If he convicted, he would have to appeal. Trump faces three more criminal cases, but they are not expected to come to trial before the Nov. 5 election.

Members of Biden’s campaign say any verdict will not have a substantial impact on the dynamics of the election.

Source: Terra

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