Jury deliberating Trump verdict in New York 

National News

By Catherine Yang and Michael Washburn 
Contributing Writers 

Jurors began deliberating in former President Donald Trump’s criminal case in New York on Wednesday, after New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan spent more than one hour instructing the jury on the law. 

“Your verdict on each count you consider, whether guilty or not, must be unanimous,” he told jurors. “That is, each and every juror must agree to it.” 

‘Intent to Defraud’ 

Merchan reminded jurors that prosecutors have the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt not only that the charged crime was committed, but that Trump committed the crime. 

Trump was charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree, meaning the 34 records were allegedly falsified with the intent to conceal another crime. 

“Intent means conscious objective or purpose,” the judge defined for jurors. “Intent does not require premeditation. In other words, intent does not require advance planning, nor is it necessary that the intent exist in the person’s mind for a given period of time.” 

“In order to prove an intent to defraud, the people need not prove that the defendant acted with the intent to defraud any particular person or entity,” he said. “Intent to defraud is also not constricted to intent to deprive another person of money or property.” 

“The People need not prove that the other crime was committed, aided, or concealed,” Merchan said. 

The judge set out three possibilities for that other crime: conspiracy to promote or prevent the election of a person to office by unlawful means, they may consider violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act, falsification of business records, or violation of tax laws. 

FECA makes it unlawful to make contributions to presidential candidates over a certain limit. An expenditure made in cooperation, consultant, or concert with a candidate can be considered a “contribution.” The contribution limit in 2015 and 2016 was $2,700. The judge also explained the press exemption to FECA. 

In New York City and the state it is unlawful to knowingly supply or submit false information in connection to taxes, he added, even if this conduct does not result in the underpayment of taxes. 

Jurors do not need to agree on the crime the records were allegedly meant to conceal. 

Defining Conspiracy Terms 

“The knowledge of a conspiracy does not by itself make the defendant a conspirator,” Merchan added. 

“Under our law, Michael Cohen is an accomplice,” he added. “Our law provides that the defendant may not be convicted of any crime based on the testimony of an accomplice unless it is supported by corroborating evidence tending to connect the defendant to the commission of a crime.” 

Merchan also explained “accessorial liability” to the jury. 

“When one person engaged in conduct which constitutes an offense, another is criminally liable for such conduct when he or she solicits, requests, commands, importunes, or intentionally engages another person to aid in committing that crime,” he said. “A defendant proven beyond a reasonable doubt to be criminally liable in engaging another person to commit a crime is as guilty as the person who committed that crime.” 

Reasonable Doubt 

Merchan provided examples of questions jurors should ask, and things they should consider. 

“Did the witness have an opportunity to see or hear the events about which he or she testified?” he said. “Was the testimony of the witness consistent or inconsistent with other evidence or testimony in the case?’ 

“You may consider whether a witness had, or did not have, a motive to lie,” he also said. “You may consider whether a witness hopes for or expects a benefit for testifying.” 

“You may consider whether a witness made statements at this trial that are inconsistent with each other. You may also consider whether a witness made previous statements that are inconsistent with statements made here at this trial,” he said, adding that inconsistency is not proof something did or did not happen.  

He also reminded jurors they are not allowed to read into Trump not testifying. 

“Throughout these proceedings, the defendant is presumed to be innocent,” Merchan reminded jurors. “As a result, you must find the defendant not guilty unless the evidence presented by the People proves the defendant to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” 

“The fact that the defendant did not testify is not a fact on which any inference as to guilt may be drawn,” he said. “The burden of proof never shifts from the People to the defendant.” 

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS