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Jury Instructions From Judge Could Change Trump Trial Outcome: Jury Consultant

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


Jury consultant Melissa Gomez predicts that the judge will have “a lot of power” while directing the jury group to decide the fate of former President Donald Trump’s corporate fraud case.

This week marks the end of the criminal trial for Trump in Manhattan, which lasted more than four weeks of testimony. Concerning a purported hush money payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about an alleged affair, the former president is accused on 34 counts. Prosecutors allege that Trump fabricated corporate records to hide his involvement in the payment made by Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, during the 2016 presidential election.

The former president denies having an affair with Daniels and has entered a not-guilty plea to all allegations.

The case’s closing arguments will start on Tuesday, and a 12-person jury will begin deliberations on Wednesday. But before he hands it off to the jury, Chief Judge Juan Merchan will advise the jurors on the applicable laws, a subject that was hotly contested throughout last week’s trial between the prosecution and defense.

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In an interview with CNN on Monday, Gomez suggested that Merchan’s instructions might have a significant impact on the jury’s decision in Trump’s case. She told anchors, Boris Sanchez and Jessica Dean, “It’s when there is disagreement in the room when the juries rely on those jury instructions.”

“I think this is the context where those instructions can have a lot of power if they’re clear and help guide these jurors,” Gomez added.

Both parties involved in the case requested Merchan’s directions last week, which should take an hour on Wednesday. Prosecutors described the request from Trump’s lawyers for the judge to clarify that the hush money payments at the core of the case do not necessarily violate the law as “totally inappropriate.”

Additionally, the defense asked Merchan to take into account the case’s “extraordinarily important” aspects in his instructions; however, the judge rejected this request, stating that it would not follow the normal procedures for instructions. The jurors were not present throughout the deliberations.

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Legal experts have stated that the likelihood of a mistrial in the former president’s case is significantly higher than in a typical trial and that all it would take for the former president to escape prosecution is for one jury out of the twelve to support Trump.

Gomez told CNN that a hung jury might occur in “any case” when asked if she thought the case would result in a mistrial. However, she concluded that “anything can happen in a trial like this, and it only takes one holdout.”

CNN legal analyst Elie Honig said last week that the prosecution could have a “practical problem” if the jury is not instructed on the complicated specifics around campaign finance law at the center of Trump’s case, which Honig said have been “so poorly defined” by the prosecution.

“If the jury is going to be instructed that the other crime here is state or federal campaign finance law, don’t they have to get into what that means?” Honig noted.

Meanwhile, conservative commentator Megyn Kelly has warned that Merchan’s instructions could tip the jury against Trump.

The Manhattan case brought by District Attorney Alvin Bragg against Trump turned testy last Monday when defense attorneys made a second attempt to dismiss the case. They argued that the prosecution had not presented any evidence connecting the former president to any falsification of business records.

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