Justice: Trump trial: Jury deliberates on verdict

There is a lot at stake in the US election year – for Donald Trump, the United States and the whole world. Now twelve ordinary people will decide the fate of the once most powerful man.

In the first criminal trial against a former US president, the jury has retired to deliberate on the verdict. In the case against Donald Trump, Judge Juan Merchan dismissed the jury from the courtroom after giving the obligatory instructions to the twelve New Yorkers, as several journalists present reported. The jury must now reach a unanimous verdict. These deliberations usually last between a few hours and several days.

If he is found guilty, Judge Merchan will determine the sentence at a separate hearing. If convicted, Trump faces several years in prison, which could also be suspended, or a fine. The Republican has pleaded not guilty and could still run in the presidential election in November even if he is found guilty. If the jury cannot reach an agreement even after lengthy deliberations, the trial would collapse. It could then be reopened with a different jury.

Since mid-April, more than 20 witnesses have been heard in the proceedings. The prosecution accuses Trump of wanting to improve his chances of winning the 2016 presidential election by paying porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in hush money and then illegally accounting for the flow of money. Although the payment itself – which neither party disputes – was not illegal, the now 77-year-old is said to have manipulated documents when reimbursing the amount to his then personal lawyer Michael Cohen in order to conceal the true reason for the transaction. This makes him guilty of 34 counts of illegal campaign financing.

Impact on US election campaign expected

The verdict is also likely to have an impact on the current election campaign in the United States – but the question is: how much and to whose advantage? Trump is trying to turn the accusations into a personal advantage and mobilize his supporters by portraying himself as the victim of a politically motivated justice system. Incumbent Joe Biden, on the other hand, who is seeking re-election in November, does not appear to have benefited noticeably from the trial against his challenger. In view of the strong divisions in US society and the polarizing figure of Trump, US media speculated that it was more likely than in other trials that the jury would not be able to agree on a verdict.

“The biggest liar of all time”

Before the end of the trial, the defense and prosecution had one last opportunity on Tuesday to influence the opinion of the twelve jurors in their favor in the case that attracted worldwide attention. Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass said: “This plot that these men hatched back then could well have led to President Trump being elected.” He referred to an alleged plan that Trump, his lawyer Cohen and the editor of a tabloid magazine are said to have forged to prevent unfavorable coverage of the Republican presidential candidate before the 2016 election. This ultimately led to the payment to Daniels.

Trump's defense attorney, meanwhile, protested his innocence: his client had not committed a crime and the prosecution had not been able to prove its allegations, said Todd Blanche. He again attacked the credibility of the key witness: “You cannot convict President Trump of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt based on the testimony of Michael Cohen.” Trump's former personal attorney had, as he often does, lied in his testimony. Cohen is “the biggest liar of all time,” said Blanche.