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Judge excuses jurors, ending first day of deliberations in Trump’s criminal trial

Deliberations in huh money case will resume Thursday morning
Former President Donald Trump gestures as he walks to the courtroom during his hush money trial at Manhattan criminal court, Wednesday, May 29, 2024, in New York. (Yuki Iwamura/Pool Photo via AP)

The first day of jury deliberations in Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial concluded after the panel sent their first two notes to the judge Wednesday afternoon, just a few hours after beginning deliberations.

They requested to rehear jury instructions, as well as rehear testimony from former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker about the August 2015 Trump Tower meeting where he agreed to identify negative stories for Trump, a phone call he says he had with Trump about the Karen McDougal deal, and his decision not to sell the rights to McDougal’s story to Trump.

The jury also asked to hear Michael Cohen’s testimony about the same Trump Tower meeting.

Judge Juan M. Merchan said it would take some time to gather the requested testimony and about a half hour to re-read it to the jury. Deliberations will resume Thursday morning.

The historic deliberations followed Tuesday’s whirlwind of closing arguments, which stretched into the evening as prosecutor Joshua Steinglass accused Trump of intentionally deceiving voters by allegedly participating in a “catch-and-kill” scheme to bury stories that might obliterate his 2016 presidential bid.

The defense approached its summation much in the same way it approached cross-examination: by targeting the credibility of star witness Michael Cohen.

Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, charges which are punishable by up to four years in prison. He has denied all wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.

At the heart of the charges are reimbursements paid to Cohen for a $130,000 hush money payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels in exchange for not going public with her claim about a 2006 sexual encounter with Trump.

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

The case is the first of Trump’s four indictments to reach trial and is the first-ever criminal case against a former U.S. president.


— Cohen’s credibility, campaigning at court and other highlights from closing arguments

— Rallies and debates used to define campaigns. Now they’re about juries and trials

— Biden’s campaign shows up outside Trump’s trial with Robert De Niro and others

— Another big name will be at the courthouse in Manhattan on Wednesday: Harvey Weinstein

— Trump hush money case: A timeline of key events

Here’s the latest:


Judge Juan M. Merchan has returned to the bench in the Manhattan courtroom where Donald Trump’s hush money trial is being held.

Trump is also back in the courtroom.

“OK, where do we stand?” Merchan asked the lawyers, who have been sifting through trial transcripts to isolate portions requested by the jury.

After going through areas of agreement about how to respond to some of the jury’s requests, the two sides are now asking the judge to settle disagreements about exactly which lines of David Pecker’s testimony about the Trump Tower meeting will be read to the jurors.


One reason why the process of gathering requested testimony for the jury is somewhat painstaking is that witnesses aren’t always asked about events in one fell swoop.

Sometimes lawyers will return to a topic at different points in their questioning, and the same events can be covered again and again on direct examination and cross-examination. One of the goals of sifting through the transcripts is to ensure that no relevant testimony is left out.

The lawyers also want to make sure that testimony they feel isn’t relevant to the jury’s request is left out of whatever is read back to the panel. Opposing sides often debate what is and isn’t pertinent.


With Donald Trump gone from the courtroom, a pair of prosecutors and a pair of defense lawyers in his hush money case huddled Wednesday afternoon around the defense table poring over hard copies of the transcripts.

Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass leaned over a thick, bound transcript, reading through lines as his colleague Susan Hoffinger jotted notes on a notepad. Trump lawyers Todd Blanche and Emil Bove stood at their spots at the defense table, reading through yet more transcripts and conferring with their opposite numbers. At one point, Steinglass looked up from his volume and flashed a broad smile at Blanche, who reacted in kind — a moment of collegiality among courtroom rivals.


Judge Juan M. Merchan granted a defense request Wednesday afternoon to allow Donald Trump to return to his waiting area in the courtroom across the hall while the lawyers continue to work on the transcript issue.

However, Trump can’t leave yet — Merchan said he wants him close by in case any issues arise that require his presence.


Judge Juan M. Merchan has excused jurors in Donald Trump’s hush money trial, ending the first day of deliberations.

Merchan said the jury can decide on its own if it wants to hear all of the instructions again, or just some, and then send him another note reflecting that decision.

He estimated that the rereading aloud of the requested testimony from former National Enquirer Publisher and Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen would take about a half hour, but he added that the relevant transcript pages were still being gathered.

Prosecutors estimated to Merchan that the sections of testimony that jurors have asked to rehear are about 30 pages and will take about 30 minutes to be reread.

The jurors deliberated for 4 1/2 hours Wednesday.

Before excusing jurors for the day, Merchan told them that going forward they can work until 6 p.m. each day — but the decision is up to them on how long they want to go after the normal end of the court day at 4:30 p.m.

Jurors will resume deliberating on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. He said they will be summoned to the courtroom once the transcript pages are ready to be reread aloud for them.


Jurors in Donald Trump’s hush money trial have sent another note to Judge Juan M. Merchan — this time requesting to rehear jury instructions. Merchan said he will bring the jury back into the courtroom to see if it wants to hear a portion or all of the instructions.


The jury in Donald Trump’s criminal trial does not have a transcript of witness testimony from the case. All they have with them is a verdict sheet and a laptop loaded with documents and other exhibits presented in the case.

The panel can’t have any of the transcripts of testimony in the case while deliberating, nor can they be given a written copy of the instructions that were read to them Wednesday morning.

Instead, the panel must send a note to the judge each time it wants to have a snippet of testimony read out or get a refresher on the instructions it must follow.


The jury in Donald Trump’s hush money trial has made four requests in a note to the judge.

It wants to hear former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker’s testimony regarding the August 2015 Trump Tower meeting where he agreed to identify negative stories for Trump, a phone call he says he had with Trump about the Karen McDougal deal, and his decision not to sell the rights to McDougal’s story to Trump.

The jury also wants to hear Michael Cohen’s testimony about the same Trump Tower meeting.

Judge Juan M. Merchan said it would take some time to gather the requested testimony. Then he’ll bring jurors into the courtroom and have it read to them.


The jury in Donald Trump’s criminal trial has sent its first note to the judge. The note’s contents have not yet been made public but will be read in court soon. The jury, which is deliberating in secret in a side room, indicated it had a note by ringing a courtroom bell at 2:56 p.m., about 3 1/2 hours into deliberations.

While deliberating, juries can only communicate with the judge by note. They may involve questions such as requests to hear portions of testimony or rehear certain instructions.


Donald Trump’s complaints on social media about the hush money case persisted Wednesday as the jury deliberated.

“IT IS RIDICULOUS, UNCONSTITUTIONAL, AND UNAMERICAN that the highly Conflicted, Radical Left Judge is not requiring a unanimous decision on the fake charges against me brought by Soros backed D.A. Alvin Bragg,” he wrote. “A THIRD WORLD ELECTION INTERFERENCE HOAX!”

Despite his declaration, any verdict in the case has to be unanimous: guilty or not guilty.

If the jurors disagree, they keep deliberating. If they get to a point where they are hopelessly deadlocked, then the judge can declare a mistrial.

If they convict, they must agree that Trump created a false entry in his company’s records or caused someone else to do so, and that he did so with the intent of committing or concealing another crime — in this case, violating a state election law.

What the jurors do not have to agree on, however, is which way that election law was violated.


Jurors in Donald Trump’s criminal trial will deliberate as long as they need to.

The standard court day runs from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with a break for lunch. But judges sometimes extend the hours if jurors wish. In this case, Judge Juan M. Merchan already has decided that deliberations will proceed on Wednesday, which is normally a day off from the trial.

There’s no limit on how many days deliberations can continue.


As jury deliberations get underway in Donald Trump’s hush money trial, the White House says President Joe Biden’s attention is focused elsewhere.

“The president’s focused on the American people, delivering for the American people,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters traveling with Biden to Philadelphia, where he has campaign events scheduled Wednesday. “That’s his focus.”


As the jury begins its deliberations in Donald Trump’s hush money case, claims are spreading across social media that Judge Juan M. Merchan told the panel they don’t need a unanimous verdict to convict Trump.

That’s false.

To convict Trump, Merchan told the jury they will have to find unanimously — that is, all 12 jurors must agree — that the former president created a fraudulent entry in his company’s records or caused someone else to do so, and that he did so with the intent of committing or concealing another crime.

What’s being distorted by some online is the judge’s instruction about how to reach a verdict about that second element.

Prosecutors say the crime Trump committed or hid is a violation of a New York election law making it illegal for two or more conspirators “to promote or prevent the election of any person to a public office by unlawful means.”

Merchan gave the jurors three possible “unlawful means”: falsifying other business records, breaking the Federal Election Campaign Act or submitting false information on a tax return.

For a conviction, each juror would have to find that at least one of those three things happened, but they don’t have to agree unanimously which it was.


Jury deliberations proceed in secret, in a room reserved specifically for jurors and through an intentionally opaque process.

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 in Donald Trump’s hush money case will deliberate for and there’s no time limit either. The jury must evaluate 34 counts of falsifying business records and that could take some time. 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, Judge Juan M. 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.


Former President Donald Trump told reporters after jurors began deliberating in his criminal hush money trial that the charges were rigged and again accused the judge of being conflicted. He further said that “Mother Teresa could not beat these charges.”

“What is happening here is weaponization at a level that nobody’s seen before ever and it shouldn’t be allowed to happen,” Trump said.

Trump repeated accusations that the criminal charges were brought by President Joe Biden’s administration to hit him, as the president’s main election opponent.


After jurors left the courtroom to begin deliberations, Judge Juan M. Merchan told Donald Trump and his lawyers that they were required to remain in the courthouse.

“You cannot leave the building. We need you to be able to get here quickly if we do receive a note,” Merchan said.

After Merchan left the bench, Trump turned and walked to chat with his son, Donald Trump Jr. and lawyer Alina Habba.

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