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Jury Deliberating Trump Verdict in New YorkThe jury needs to decide 34 counts of felony-level falsification of business records in the first-ever criminal trial of a U.S. president.

Jurors began deliberating in former President Donald Trump’s criminal case in New York on May 29, 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 the jurors. “That is, each and every juror must agree to it.”

‘Intent to Defraud’

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

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

“Intent means conscious objective or purpose,” the judge defined for the 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,” Justice 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, for which they may consider violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA); 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 with taxes, the judge said, even if this conduct does not result in the underpayment of taxes.

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

Defining Conspiracy Terms

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

“Under our law, Michael Cohen is an accomplice.

“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.”

Justice 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

Justice Merchan provided examples of questions that jurors should ask and things that 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.

“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.”
However, inconsistency is not proof something did or did not happen, the judge said.

He also reminded jurors that they are not allowed to read anything into President Trump’s not testifying.

“Throughout these proceedings, the defendant is presumed to be innocent,” Justice 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.

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