Trump’s hush money case has gone to the jury – here’s what happens now

US

The jury has begun deliberating in Donald Trump’s hush money trial – as the world waits for the seven men and five women to reach their historic verdict.

The deliberations began on Wednesday after nearly two dozen witnesses, 16 days of testimony and hours of lawyers’ closing arguments.

Trump is facing 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in connection with an alleged scheme to bury stories ahead of his 2016 presidential campaign.

It relates to reimbursements paid to Trump’s then lawyer Michael Cohen after he made a $130,000 (£102,000) payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels who claimed to have had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006.

Prosecutors say the reimbursements were falsely logged as “legal expenses” to hide the true nature of the transactions.

Trump, who is the first ever former US president to face a criminal trial, has denied all wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.

He has claimed “Mother Teresa” could not beat the charges against him.

The jury is now deciding whether Trump is guilty of at least one of them.

Here’s a look at how the deliberations process works.

As it happened: Trump downbeat as jury sent out to decide fate

What is the jury deciding?

Trump will be convicted if the jury unanimously finds he created a false entry in his company’s records, or caused someone else to do so, with the intent of committing or concealing a violation of a state law making it illegal for conspirators “to promote or prevent the election of any person to a public office by unlawful means”.

A conviction would mean that jurors all agreed that something unlawful was carried out to boost Trump’s election campaign.

However, they don’t have to be unanimous on what that unlawful thing was.

Read more:
What is Trump accused of?
Could Trump still be president if he’s convicted?
Who is the porn star at the centre of Trump’s hush money case?
Trump accused of trying to ‘hoodwink’ voters

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2:46

Trump and lawyer audio about hush money

Where will Trump be during the deliberations?

The former US president doesn’t have to stay in the courtroom itself during deliberations but must be in the building.

During the trial, he and his attorneys and security personnel had the use of a courtroom across the hall for breaks.

Where do deliberations take place?

Behind closed doors in a room reserved for the jury.

While the 12 jurors deliberate, the six alternate jurors who have also observed the whole trial will be in a separate space in the courthouse.

If a jury member is unable to continue because of illness or other reasons, an alternate juror will then take that person’s place, and deliberations will start again from the beginning.

What will we know about the discussions?

The public will know very little because they are held in secret.

The identities of the jurors are also kept from the public.

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0:26

Stormy Daniels recalls encounter with Trump

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Do we know anything about the deliberations so far?

On the first day of deliberations, the jury sent two notes to the judge as they asked to rehear jury instructions as well as testimonies from National Enquirer publisher David Pecker and Trump’s former lawyer Mr Cohen.

The jury cannot be given a transcript and the testimonies will instead be read to them in the courtroom.

Judge Juan M. Merchan said it will take some time to gather the requested sections and about half an hour for it to be read aloud.

Image:
Donald Trump pictured grinning ahead of the judge giving final instructions to the jury. Pic: Reuters

While the attorneys and court were gathering that testimony, jurors sent a request to rehear the judge’s instructions on the laws applicable to the case.

Then jurors were brought into court and asked by the judge whether they wanted to hear all of the legal instructions or just part. After explaining that they could answer by note, he sent them home for the evening.

How long will jurors deliberate?

The jury will deliberate for as long as it takes.

The standard court day runs from 9.30am to 4.30pm local time, with a break for lunch.

Image:
Donald Trump walks out of the courthourse after the jury is sent out. Pic: Reuters

Can the jurors go home?

This particular jury isn’t sequestered – the legal term for isolating the panel from the outside world.

This means the jurors can go home at the end of each day.

What are the possible outcomes of the trial?

Guilty – It only takes a guilty verdict on one count for Trump to receive a criminal conviction.

Not guilty – To be acquitted, the jury must decide that Trump is not guilty on all counts.

Hung jury – If the jury can’t reach a unanimous verdict, a hung jury can be declared. The judge would then have to declare a mistrial. A retrial could be held in this case.

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1:47

Trump kids slam ‘sham trial’

What happens if there’s a verdict?

Jurors will send a note to the judge saying they have reached a verdict in the case. The note will not state what that verdict is.

The judge will then summon the former president, his defence team and prosecutors to the courtroom if they’re not already there.

The jury will then be brought in, before the foreperson – which in New York is usually the first juror who was chosen – will be asked whether the panel has reached a verdict.

If the answer is yes, the foreperson will then be asked what the verdict is for each count and will answer either “guilty” or “not guilty”.

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2:00

‘Trump is a monster’ De Niro tells Sky News

What happens if there isn’t a verdict?

If jurors send a note saying they can’t reach a verdict, the judge will consult with both sides as he decides what to do next.

Defence lawyers might seek an immediate mistrial.

It could be granted, but often the response is to call the jury in for some form of instruction to keep trying.

When would Trump be sentenced if he was found guilty?

If guilty, sentencing will come four to six weeks after the verdict.

He faces up to four years in prison, although legal experts expect the former president to avoid jail time.

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