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Closing arguments, jury instructions and maybe a verdict? Major week looms in Trump hush money trial

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Closing arguments, jury instructions and maybe a verdict? Major week looms in Trump hush money trial
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Closing arguments, jury instructions and maybe a verdict? Major week looms in Trump hush money trial

2024-05-28 07:11 Last Updated At:07:20

WASHINGTON (AP) — The testimony in Donald Trump's New York hush money trial is all wrapped up after more than four weeks and nearly two dozen witnesses, meaning the case heads into the pivotal final stretch of closing arguments, jury deliberations and possibly a verdict.

It's impossible to say how long all of that will take, but in a landmark trial that's already featured its fair share of memorable moments, this week could easily be the most important.

Here's what to expect in the days ahead:

Starting Tuesday morning, prosecutors and defense lawyers will have their final opportunity to address the jury in closing arguments expected to last for much of the day, if not all of it.

The arguments don't count as evidence in the case charging Trump with falsifying business records to cover up hush money payments during the 2016 presidential election to a porn star who alleged she had a sexual encounter with him a decade earlier. They'll instead function as hourslong recaps of the key points the lawyers want to leave jurors with before the panel disappears behind closed doors for deliberations.

Look for prosecutors to remind jurors that they can trust the financial paperwork they've seen and the witnesses they've heard from. That includes porn actor Stormy Daniels, whose account of an alleged sexual encounter with Trump is at the heart of the case, and Trump's former lawyer and personal fixer Michael Cohen, who testified that Trump was directly involved in the hush money scheme and authorized payments.

It's worth remembering that the defense, which called only two witnesses but not Trump, doesn't have to prove anything or convince jurors of Trump's innocence.

To prevent a conviction, the defense simply needs to convince at least one juror that prosecutors haven't proved Trump's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard for criminal cases.

Expect the defense to try to poke holes in the government's case by disputing Daniels' testimony about her hotel suite encounter with Trump and by distancing Trump from the mechanics of the reimbursements to Cohen, who was responsible for the $130,000 hush money payment to Daniels.

The defense may also assert one last time that Trump was most concerned about shielding his family from salacious stories, not winning the election, when it comes to the hush money that was paid.

And it'll certainly attack the credibility of Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the payment and who was accused by Trump's lawyers of lying even while on the witness stand. How much of his testimony the jury believes will go a long way in determining the outcome of the case.

Since the prosecution has the burden of proof, it will deliver its summation last — the reverse order from opening statements, in which the prosecution went first.

A critical moment will take place, perhaps Wednesday morning, before the jury begins its deliberations.

Judge Juan M. Merchan is expected to spend about an hour instructing the jury on the law governing the case, providing a roadmap for what it can and cannot take into account as it evaluates the Republican former president's guilt or innocence.

In an indication of just how important those instructions are, prosecutors and defense lawyers had a spirited debate last week outside the jury's presence as they sought to persuade Merchan about the instructions he should give.

The Trump team, for instance, sought an instruction informing jurors that the types of hush money payments at issue in Trump’s case are not inherently illegal, a request a prosecutor called “totally inappropriate.” Merchan said such an instruction would go too far and is unnecessary.

Trump's team also asked Merchan to consider the “extraordinarily important” nature of the case when issuing his instructions and to urge jurors to reach “very specific findings.” Prosecutors objected to that as well, and Merchan agreed that it would be wrong to deviate from the standard instructions.

“When you say it’s a very important case, you’re asking me to change the law, and I’m not going to do that,” Merchan said.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, requested an instruction that someone’s status as a candidate doesn’t need to be the sole motivation for making a payment that benefits the campaign. Defense lawyers asked for jurors to be told that if a payment would have been made even if the person wasn’t running, it shouldn’t be treated as a campaign contribution.

The deliberations will proceed in secret, in a room reserved specifically for jurors and in a process that's intentionally opaque.

Jurors can communicate with the court through notes that ask the judge, for instance, for legal guidance or to have particular excerpts of testimony read back to them. But without knowing what jurors are saying to each other, it's hard to read too much into the meaning of any note.

It's anyone's guess how long the jury will deliberate for and there's no time limit either. The jury must evaluate 34 counts of falsifying business records, so that could take some time, and a verdict might not come by the end of the week.

To reach a verdict on any given count, either guilty or not guilty, all 12 jurors must agree with the decision for the judge to accept it.

Things will get trickier if the jury can't reach a consensus after several days of deliberations. Though defense lawyers might seek an immediate mistrial, Merchan is likely to call the jurors in and instruct them to keep trying for a verdict and to be willing to reconsider their positions without abandoning their conscience or judgment just to go along with others.

If, after that instruction, the jury still can't reach a verdict, the judge would have the option to deem the panel hopelessly deadlocked and declare a mistrial.

Associated Press writers Jennifer Peltz, Michael R. Sisak and Jake Offenhartz in New York contributed to this report.

FILE - Michael Cohen leaves his apartment building on his way to Manhattan criminal court, May 13, 2024, in New York. The testimony in Donald Trump's hush money trial is all wrapped up after more than four weeks and nearly two dozen witnesses, meaning the case heads into the pivotal final stretch of closing arguments, jury deliberations and possibly a verdict. Expect the defense to attack the credibility of Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the payment and who was accused by Trump's lawyers of lying even while on the witness stand. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson, File)

FILE - Michael Cohen leaves his apartment building on his way to Manhattan criminal court, May 13, 2024, in New York. The testimony in Donald Trump's hush money trial is all wrapped up after more than four weeks and nearly two dozen witnesses, meaning the case heads into the pivotal final stretch of closing arguments, jury deliberations and possibly a verdict. Expect the defense to attack the credibility of Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the payment and who was accused by Trump's lawyers of lying even while on the witness stand. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson, File)

Jurors take notes as Stormy Daniels testifies in Manhattan criminal court, Tuesday, May 7, 2024, in New York. The testimony in Donald Trump's hush money trial is all wrapped up after more than four weeks and nearly two dozen witnesses, meaning the case heads into the pivotal final stretch of closing arguments, jury deliberations and possibly a verdict. The deliberations will proceed in secret, in a room reserved specifically for jurors and in an process that's intentionally opaque. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)

Jurors take notes as Stormy Daniels testifies in Manhattan criminal court, Tuesday, May 7, 2024, in New York. The testimony in Donald Trump's hush money trial is all wrapped up after more than four weeks and nearly two dozen witnesses, meaning the case heads into the pivotal final stretch of closing arguments, jury deliberations and possibly a verdict. The deliberations will proceed in secret, in a room reserved specifically for jurors and in an process that's intentionally opaque. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)

FILE - Judge Juan M. Merchan poses in his chambers in New York, March 14, 2024. The testimony in Donald Trump's hush money trial is all wrapped up after more than four weeks and nearly two dozen witnesses, meaning the case heads into the pivotal final stretch of closing arguments, jury deliberations and possibly a verdict. Merchan is expected to spend about an hour instructing the jury on the law governing the case, providing a roadmap for what it can and cannot take into account as it evaluates Trump's guilt or innocence. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

FILE - Judge Juan M. Merchan poses in his chambers in New York, March 14, 2024. The testimony in Donald Trump's hush money trial is all wrapped up after more than four weeks and nearly two dozen witnesses, meaning the case heads into the pivotal final stretch of closing arguments, jury deliberations and possibly a verdict. Merchan is expected to spend about an hour instructing the jury on the law governing the case, providing a roadmap for what it can and cannot take into account as it evaluates Trump's guilt or innocence. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

FILE - Former President Donald Trump appears at Manhattan criminal court, April 16, 2024, in New York. The testimony in Donald Trump's hush money trial is all wrapped up after more than four weeks and nearly two dozen witnesses, meaning the case heads into the pivotal final stretch of closing arguments, jury deliberations and possibly a verdict. (Curtis Means/DailyMail.com via AP, Pool, File)

FILE - Former President Donald Trump appears at Manhattan criminal court, April 16, 2024, in New York. The testimony in Donald Trump's hush money trial is all wrapped up after more than four weeks and nearly two dozen witnesses, meaning the case heads into the pivotal final stretch of closing arguments, jury deliberations and possibly a verdict. (Curtis Means/DailyMail.com via AP, Pool, File)

Next Article

Braves Sweep Tigers

2024-06-20 10:39 Last Updated At:10:40

ATLANTA (AP) — Sean Murphy hit a pair of two-run homers, Reynaldo López threw five scoreless innings and the Atlanta Braves completed a three-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers with a 7-0 victory on Wednesday.

López (5-2) lowered his MLB-leading ERA to 1.57. He allowed seven hits, walked one and struck out six. López has given up just four runs in 40 2/3 innings over six home starts this year.

The Braves went 5-1 on a six-game homestand and have won six of their past seven. They allowed just two runs combined in the series.

Murphy, who made the National League All-Star team last season, was hitting just .135 in 15 games this season entering the game. The catcher went 4-for-4 with 4 RBIs.

PIRATES 1, REDS 0

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Bryan Reynolds hit a go-ahead home run in the bottom of the eighth inning and Pittsburgh edged Cincinnati.

Reynolds pounced on an 80 mph changeup from Nick Martinez (2-5) and sent it just over the wall in center field for his 10th homer of the season as the Pirates took two of three from Cincinnati.

Colin Holderman (3-0) retired the three batters he faced in the eighth after coming on for a brilliant Mitch Keller. David Bednar worked a perfect ninth for his 16th save.

The teams combined for just five hits on a steamy day at PNC Park in which Keller and Hunter Greene dominated.

PADRES 5, PHILLIES 2

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Matt Waldron used his knuckleball to strike out six over seven innings and San Diego avoided a 10th straight road loss with a late rally off Philadelphia’s bullpen.

A day after the Phillies used four consecutive ninth-inning hits to rally for a 4-3 win, Waldron (5-6) and two relievers helped the Padres snap a five-game skid that started against the Mets. The Padres avoided their first 0-6 trip since 2009 and had lost nine straight overall on the road. They hadn’t lost 10 straight away games since 2013.

Bryce Harper homered twice for the Phillies, his 27th career multi-homer game and second of the season. His 17 homers are tied with Kyle Schwarber for the team lead.

Robert Suárez worked the ninth for his 18th save.

MARLINS 4, CARDINALS 3

MIAMI (AP) — Otto Lopez hit a two-out single in the bottom of the ninth to drive in Tim Anderson and Miami defeated St. Louis.

Lopez’s liner off Ryan Fernandez (0-2) was bobbled by right fielder Alec Burleson, but is doubtful he would have had a play. Tanner Scott (6-5) got the win after pitching a scoreless top of the ninth.

The NL-worst Marlins took two of three from the Cardinals, who fell back below .500 at 36-37.

Kyle Gibson had been scheduled to start for the Cardinals after being on the bereavement list this week following a death in his family, but was scratched just before game time with back tightness.

Emergency starter Matthew Liberatore gave up homers to the Marlins first two hitters, Bryan De La Cruz, his 13th of the season, and Jesús Sánchez, his sixth. Josh Bell followed with a double and Jake Burger walked, but a double play and a fly out got Liberatore out of the first inning.

CUBS 6, GIANTS 5

CHICAGO (AP) — Ian Happ hit a 442-foot homer, Dansby Swanson made it back-to-back longballs and the Chicago Cubs hung on to beat San Francisco.

Jorge Soler made it interesting in the eighth inning with a 444-foot grand slam over the bleachers in left field against Tyson Miller that got the Giants within one, but Colten Brewer pitched around back-to-back walks to Wilmer Flores and Brett Wisely in the ninth and finished for his first save.

Kyle Hendricks (1-4) pitched neatly into the sixth inning, allowing one run on two hits in his longest outing of the season and lowering his ERA from 8.20 to 7.46.

NATIONALS 3, DIAMONDBACKS 1

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jesse Winker hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the sixth inning and Washington defeated Arizona.

Ildemaro Vargas added an RBI single for Washington, which has won nine of 11 overall and seven of its last eight at home.

Arizona (36-38) was denied getting back to .500 for the first time since April 16, when it was 9-9.

Arizona starter Brandon Pfaadt cruised through five scoreless innings in just 50 pitches, allowing just one runner to reach scoring position.

But with two outs in the sixth and Washington trailing 1-0, Lane Thomas worked a walk. Winker then ripped a four-seam fastball to center for his seventh home run this season. The left fielder is hitting .452 (19 for 42) over his last 14 games.

GUARDIANS 8, MARINERS 0

CLEVELAND (AP) — Tanner Bibee struck out a career-high 12 in six innings, Josh Naylor homered twice and had four RBIs, and Cleveland beat Seattle in a battle of American League division leaders.

Bibee (5-2) struck out multiple batters in each of the first five innings, allowing three hits and one walk. The right-hander had 11 strikeouts in his previous start on June 12 at Cincinnati, his first double-digit game in the majors.

Steven Kwan hit a two-run homer and José Ramírez and Bo Naylor each had two hits for the Guardians, who are five games ahead of Minnesota in the Central and have won 22 of 31 games at Progressive Field this season.

Seattle, which leads the West, lost for the second time in 10 games and is 17-6 since May 26. Manager Scott Servais and shortstop J.P. Crawford were both ejected in the fifth by Doug Eddings, who had called Crawford out on strikes.

RED SOX 7, BLUE JAYS 3

TORONTO (AP) — Jarren Duran and Enmanuel Valdez hit solo home runs, Brayan Bello pitched six innings to snap a three-start winless streak, and Boston beat Toronto to complete a three-game sweep.

Duran, who had two hits and two RBIs, extended his hitting streak to 10 games. Valdez scored all three times he reached base as the Red Sox won their fifth straight and for the eighth time in their last 10 games.

The past eight series between Boston and Toronto have all been sweeps, with the Red Sox winning three. The Blue Jays and Orioles also had eight straight meetings finish as sweeps in 2009 and 2010.

Toronto made four errors. The Blue Jays are 9-20 when they make at least one error.

Bello (7-4) allowed two runs and six hits to win for the first time since May 28 at Baltimore.

Justin Slaten pitched two innings, giving up a run on a wild pitch in the seventh, and Chris Martin finished for Boston.

Atlanta Braves catcher Sean Murphy (12) hits a two-run homer in the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers, Wednesday, June 19, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

Atlanta Braves catcher Sean Murphy (12) hits a two-run homer in the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers, Wednesday, June 19, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

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