Trump trial ends first day of jury deliberations without a verdict (2024)

Judge begins delivering jury instructions

Trump trial ends first day of jury deliberations without a verdict (1)

Court reconvened shortly after 10 a.m. as Merchan took the bench. After settling some housekeeping issues, he began delivering the instructions to the jury.

New York state courts have a standard set of jury instructions for criminal trials, and Merchan hewed closely to those directions. Prosecutors and defense attorneys proposed some alterations during a hearing last week.

"It is not my responsibility to judge the evidence here. It is yours. You and you alone are the judges of the facts, and you and you are responsible for deciding whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty," Merchan said.

By Graham Kates

Judge tells jurors to set aside any bias for or against Trump when reaching a verdict

Merchan reminded the jury that they agreed to set aside their opinions of Trump when they were selected to serve and vowed to decide the case solely on the facts and the law.

"Jurors, you will recall that during jury selection you agreed that you must set aside any opinions or bias you have in favor of or against the defendant and if you decide this case against the evidence and the law," the judge said. "You must set aside any opinions and bias and you must not allow any opinion or bias to influence your verdict."

By Graham Kates

Merchan lays out "fundamental principles" that jurors must adhere to

Merchan laid out what he called the "fundamental principles of our law that apply in all criminal trials: the presumption of innocence, the burden of proof, and the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt."

He told the jurors that Trump is presumed innocent, and they "must find the defendant not guilty, unless, on the evidence presented at this trial, you conclude that the people have proven the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt," referring to prosecutors. To do so, jurors can consider "all the evidence presented, whether by the people or by the defendant."

Merchan reminded them that they cannot draw a negative conclusion about the fact that Trump did not testify in his own defense, and that he is "not require to prove that he is not guilty."

"The burden of proof never shifts from the people to the defendant. If the people fail to satisfy their burden of proof, you must find the defendant not guilty. And if the people satisfy their burden of proof, you must find the defendant guilty," he said.

By Graham Kates

Judge explains the 2 elements jurors must consider to determine a verdict

After defining the terms in the New York statute that Trump is charged with violating, Merchan told jurors they must focus on two elements of the prosecution's case when weighing Trump's guilt or innocence.

To find Trump guilty, the jury must determine that Trump, acting personally or with others, "made or caused a false entry in the business records of an enterprise," and that he did so "with an intent to defraud that included an intent to commit another crime or to aid or conceal the commission thereof," echoing the language from the statute. He said the same instructions apply to all 34 counts, each of which correspond to a different business record.

"If you find the people have proven beyond a reasonable doubt each of those two elements, you must find the defendant guilty of this crime," Merchan said. "If you find the people have not proven beyond a reasonable doubt either one or both of those elements, you must find the defendant not guilty of this crime."

Jury begins deliberations after Merchan finishes instructions

Merchan finished issuing his instructions and dismissed the jury to begin deliberations. He laid out several rules they must adhere to when discussing the case.

"First, while you are here in the courthouse, deliberating on the case, you will be kept together in the jury room. You may not leave the jury room during deliberations. Lunch will of course be provided," he said. "If you have a cell phone or other electronic device, please give it to a court officer or sergeant to hold for you while you are engaged in deliberations."

If jurors have a question, they can submit it in writing to the judge. If a juror wishes to speak to the judge, they must do so in open court with the parties present. He told them he is not allowed to discuss "the facts of the case, or possible verdict, or vote of the jury on any count."

He said they would work until about 4:30 p.m. today if necessary, and no later than 6 p.m. on future days.

By Graham Kates

The "unlawful means" that jurors could consider

In order to find Trump guilty of falsifying business records in the first degree, jurors must conclude that he "conspired to promote or prevent the election of any person to a public office by unlawful means."

They do not have to all agree on which type of "unlawful means." Merchan explained three that prosecutors put forth:

  • Violations of the federal elections campaign act, again otherwise known of FECA
  • Falsification of other business records
  • Violation of tax laws

For the second one, falsification of additional records, the judge gave several examples of documents that can be considered, beyond the checks, vouchers and invoices at the center of this trial.

They include tax records issued by the Trump Organization to Cohen, bank records associated with two of Cohen's limited liability corporations and records related to a wire sent to Daniels' lawyer.

By Graham Kates

Court publishes judge's jury instructions

The court published Merchan's full set of jury instructions that he read aloud in court Wednesday morning. The 55-page document can be found here.

By Graham Kates

Trump: "Mother Teresa could not beat these charges"

Trump trial ends first day of jury deliberations without a verdict (2)

Leaving the courtroom after the jury got the case, Trump spoke for about five minutes, railing against the prosecution and claiming his conviction is a foregone conclusion.

"Mother Teresa could not beat these charges. These charges are rigged. The whole thing is rigged," he said.

"The whole country is a mess between the borders and fake elections and you have a trial like this, where the judge is so conflicted, he can't breathe. He's got to do his job. And it's not for me, that I can tell you," Trump continued. "It's a disgrace and I mean that. Mother Teresa could not beat those charges, but we'll see. We'll see how we do."

By Jacob Rosen

The Trump defense's closing argument

Trump did not take the stand in his own defense, and his legal team called just two witnesses, including a lawyer who said Cohen told him Trump knew nothing about the Daniels payment in 2018.

In his closing argument, Trump's lead attorney Todd Blanche argued that Trump did not commit a crime and that the business records at issue were not in fact falsified since Cohen was Trump's personal attorney during that time. Above all, he emphasized that Cohen, the prosecution's key witness, should not be trusted — and that there is no way the jury could find that Trump knew about the Daniels payment "without believing the words of Michael Cohen."

He urged jurors to reject Cohen's testimony, calling him the "GLOAT," or "greatest liar of all time," and the "human embodiment of reasonable doubt." He also cast Cohen as someone who has not only lied under oath in the past, but in this very trial.

Blanche claimed that Cohen lied on the stand about a call to Trump's former bodyguard Keith Schiller, during which Cohen claims to have spoken to Trump about the Stormy Daniels deal. "That is perjury," Blanche told the jury, raising his voice for emphasis.

Regarding the "catch and kill" scheme alleged by the prosecution, Blanche argued that there was nothing illegal going on: "Every campaign is a conspiracy to promote a candidate, a group of people working together to help somebody win."

By Katrina Kaufman

The basics of the prosecution's case against Trump

As the jury considers its verdict, it's worth looking back on the basics of the prosecution's case against Trump.

Trump is accused of signing off on a scheme to illegally falsify records, with the goal of covering up the $130,000 "hush money" payment made by Cohen to Daniels in 2016. The scheme was designed to subvert election law and keep the payment secret, prosecutors say.

They allege Trump falsely portrayed reimbursem*nts for the $130,000 payment as monthly checks for ongoing legal services, paid over the course of the first year of his presidency. Each of the 34 counts corresponds to a voucher, invoice or check originating from the payments to Cohen.

Through a progression of witnesses, the prosecution began their case by laying out a broader "catch and kill" scheme to suppress negative stories about Trump during the 2016 election.

David Pecker was the CEO of American Media Inc., the parent company of the tabloid the National Enquirer, in 2016. A longtime friend of Trump, Pecker testified about how he, Trump and Cohen devised a plan to prevent damaging stories about Trump from surfacing in the months leading up to the election. The Enquirer also published negative stories about Trump's opponents, and positive stories about him. Pecker said the tabloid would run stories by Cohen before they were published.

Pecker agreed to be the "eyes and ears" of the campaign during a meeting in Trump Tower in August 2015, he told the jury. The "catch and kill" effort resulted in three stories being suppressed: those of Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal and Dino Sajudin. AMI bought the rights to McDougal and Sajudin's stories, while Cohen paid Daniels himself.

In his closing argument, prosecutor Joshua Steinglass said that AMI's purchasing of stories on then-candidate Trump's behalf, in coordination with the campaign, amounted to an unlawful campaign contribution. Steinglass said it "turned out to be one of the most valuable contributions that anyone made to the campaign. This may very well be what got Trump elected."

At its core, this is a case about documents, and through witnesses like the Trump Organization's former controller Jeff McConney and Deborah Tarasoff, who handles the company's payroll, the prosecution walked the jury through the allegedly falsified business records and numerous documents that they argue support this contention.

Prosecutors showed bank records, emails, text messages and call logs over the course of the trial. They also showed two documents bearing the handwriting of Allen Weisselberg and McConney, laying out the repayment calculations for reimbursing Cohen, which they called the "smoking guns."

They wove together a timeline of events that they say can only lead to one conclusion: that the business records were falsified with Trump's knowledge, and that this was part of a larger effort to help Trump's candidacy and prevent voters from learning about potentially damaging information before the 2016 election.

By Katrina Kaufman

Jury sends judge a note asking to review testimony from Pecker and Cohen

At 2:56, a buzzer sounded in the courtroom, the signal that the jury had a message to share. Prosecutors, Trump and his team filed in.

Merchan said the jury foreperson signed a note requesting to hear the following transcript portions:

  1. David Pecker's testimony regarding the phone conversation with Trump while Pecker was in an investor meeting
  2. Pecker's testimony about his decision not to finalize and fund the assignment of life rights related to Karen McDougal
  3. Pecker's testimony regarding a meeting at Trump Tower
  4. Cohen's testimony about the Trump Tower meeting

The jury will be brought in and seated, and the transcript portions will be read to them. These are moments that were mentioned during the prosecution's closing arguments Tuesday.

By Graham Kates

The significance of the testimony the jury is asking to review

Trump trial ends first day of jury deliberations without a verdict (3)

Each portion of the testimony that the jury wants to hear again concerns a critical moment in the prosecution's narrative.

Pecker, the publisher of the National Enquirer at the time, testified about receiving a phone call from Trump during an investor meeting in June 2016. An attorney for Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, was shopping her story of having had sex with Trump years earlier, a claim Trump has denied.

"[Trump] said, 'What should I do?'" Pecker said on the stand in April. "I said, 'I think you should buy the story and take it off the market.'"

Pecker said Trump described McDougal as "a nice girl." He said Cohen soon called him and said "you should go ahead and buy this story" and "the boss will take care of it." Pecker said he understood that to mean Trump or the Trump Organization would pay him back.

Months later, Pecker said he reached an agreement to transfer McDougal's life rights to Cohen, but the deal fell through after AMI's general counsel advised against going forward with the transfer.

"I called Michael Cohen and said to him, 'The assignment deal is off. I'm not going forward. It's a bad idea. I want you to rip up the agreement,'" Pecker testified. "He was very upset, screaming basically."

Pecker and Cohen also both testified about a meeting with Trump at Trump Tower in 2015. Pecker said that was the meeting where he agreed to be the "eyes and ears" of the campaign and be on the lookout for any negative stories about Trump. Prosecutors argued this was the origin of the "catch and kill" scheme that preceded Pecker paying McDougal $150,000, which they said represented an illegal campaign contribution.

By Stefan Becket

Jury sends second note asking to rehear judge's instructions

The buzzer rang a second time, and Merchan retook the bench. He said the jurors were requesting to hear his instructions again. He called them back into the courtroom to clarify whether they needed to hear all of the instructions, or just a portion.

Merchan said reading the sections of the transcripts that the jury requested would take about 30 minutes.

He said he didn't need an answer on reading his instructions immediately, and dismissed the jurors from the courtroom for the day.

Merchan said the jury will hear the transcript portions they requested and his jury instructions when court reconvenes at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, meaning the first day of deliberations is ending without a verdict.

By Graham Kates

Lawyers agree on transcript portions for 3 of the requests, but argue about 1

After the jurors left, lawyers for both sides were left to determine which portions of the transcript were responsive to the jurors' requests. The two sides agreed on portions regarding Pecker's testimony about a phone conversation with Trump; his testimony about his decision not to finalize and fund the assignment of life rights related to McDougal; and Cohen's testimony about an August 2015 Trump Tower meeting.

They argued, however, over which exact lines satisfied the request for Pecker's testimony regarding that meeting.

At the end of the day, there were still a few lines — out of dozens of pages of transcript — in dispute, and the judge said he would think about them Wednesday evening.

By Graham Kates

Trump trial ends first day of jury deliberations without a verdict (2024)
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