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Donald Trump Trial Verdict Deliberations: Jury Requests Testimony Rehearings

Jury deliberations in the historic trial of former President Donald Trump over alleged hush money payments concluded their first day on Wednesday without reaching a verdict. The jury, comprised of twelve New Yorkers, deliberated for over four hours before requesting to rehear key witness testimonies, which are central to the prosecution’s case.

The jury’s initial deliberations were marked by their request to rehear testimony from two critical witnesses: former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker and Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen. These testimonies revolve around an alleged scheme to suppress negative stories about Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign.

The jurors also asked for a reread of Judge Juan Merchan’s legal instructions, which guide their deliberations. This meticulous process is set to resume Thursday morning at 9:30 a.m. ET.

The jury’s request highlights the importance of Pecker and Cohen’s accounts. Pecker’s testimony includes details about an August 2015 meeting at Trump Tower, where he allegedly agreed to help Trump’s campaign by suppressing damaging stories and promoting positive ones. This meeting is considered the starting point of the so-called “catch-and-kill” scheme.

Pecker also testified about a phone call with Trump concerning former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claimed to have had a yearlong affair with Trump. Pecker suggested Trump buy her story to prevent it from becoming public, a move he believed would be embarrassing to Trump and his campaign.

Cohen’s testimony corroborates these claims, detailing his role in arranging payments to silence McDougal and other individuals who might have damaged Trump’s reputation.

Judge Merchan’s instructions are critical for the jury’s understanding of the legal framework they must apply. To convict Trump, the jury must unanimously agree that he falsified business records with the intent to commit or conceal another crime, specifically violating New York election law.

This election law violation involves using unlawful means to promote a candidate’s election. Prosecutors provided three theories of unlawful means: violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act, falsifying other business records, or submitting false tax information.

The jury must find that Trump conspired to use one of these unlawful means, though they do not need to agree on which specific method was used, as long as they unanimously conclude that some unlawful means were employed.

Trump has been vocal about the trial, continuing to claim it as a politically motivated “witch hunt.” After the jury began deliberations, Trump expressed frustration with the process, asserting that the charges are rigged and criticizing Judge Merchan’s handling of the case. He falsely claimed on social media that the judge said a unanimous decision is not required for a conviction, a statement refuted by the court’s instructions.

In the courtroom, Trump’s legal team and prosecutors were seen huddling over hardcopies of trial transcripts to address the jury’s requests for rehearing specific testimonies. This painstaking process ensures that the jury receives all relevant information while excluding extraneous details.

The jury will continue their secretive deliberations in a side room, communicating with the judge through notes. If they remain undecided after several days, Judge Merchan may instruct them to keep deliberating or declare a mistrial if they are hopelessly deadlocked.

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