New York jury resumes deliberations in Trump hush money trial

Deliberations resume after jurors asked to re-examine some witness testimony and rehear judge’s instructions on the law.

Jurors in New York have resumed deliberations in Donald Trump’s hush money trial as the United States awaits a verdict against the former president and presumptive Republican 2024 nominee that could shake November’s election.

The 12-person jury is in the spotlight after nearly two dozen witnesses testified in a New York City courtroom over the course of a more than six-week trial.

The jurors – whose identities are being kept secret for their own protection amid nationwide political tensions – began working behind closed doors for a second day on Thursday after re-examining witness testimony and rehearing instructions from the judge.

“We’ll be here it looks like a long time,” Trump told reporters outside the courtroom.

The former president is accused of falsifying business records related to a hush money payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, which Trump won.

Daniels has alleged she had a sexual encounter with Trump, which he denies. Prosecutors have said the payment was unlawful and aimed to shield the ex-president from negative media coverage that could have derailed his bid for the White House.

Trump has pleaded not guilty and said he is the victim of a politically motivated “witch-hunt”.

On Thursday, jurors appeared to be taking a close look at the testimony of Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, the prosecution’s star witness.

Cohen paid the $130,000 in hush money that ensured Daniels would not tell voters about her alleged 2006 sexual encounter with Trump.

Cohen testified that he and Trump discussed a plan to reimburse him through monthly payments disguised as legal fees – the alleged conduct that spurred the criminal charges.

Jurors asked Judge Juan Merchan for a transcript of portions of Cohen’s testimony.

They also asked Merchan for testimony from David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer tabloid, who had told jurors he worked with Trump to suppress stories that might have hurt the businessman-turned-politician’s campaign.

Trump’s defence team has argued that the former president did nothing illegal, and his lawyers sought to paint the prosecution’s witnesses – particularly Cohen – as liars whose testimony cannot be trusted.

Reporting from outside of the courthouse in Manhattan, Al Jazeera’s John Hendren said a verdict could possibly come within the week.

“There are a lot of court watchers who say that juries like to come out with these verdicts on a Friday [because] they want their weekends off,” Hendren said.

“But whenever they do this, they have to decide a couple of things: First, is Trump guilty of making these 34 payments … They were called legal fees, but the prosecution says they were payments to a former adult film star,” Hendren said.

“And then jurors have to decide – in order to make it a felony – that it was done in commission of another crime.”

The main theory from prosecutors, Hendren explained, “is that what Trump was doing was defrauding voters by hiding the facts about his private life 12 days before the [2016] election. That’s when he made the deal with Stormy Daniels”.

All 12 jurors must agree on a verdict for the judge to accept it. If they are unable to do so, the trial will be a deadlock, and Merchan will declare a mistrial.

Once jurors inform the court they have reached a verdict, Merchan will summon the parties to the courtroom. He must still affirm the verdict and enter a final judgement. Either side may also ask him to effectively overrule the jury.

If Trump is found guilty, it will likely be weeks or months until he is eventually sentenced. While the charges carry a maximum of four years in prison, experts generally agree he is more likely to face a fine, probation or community service.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies