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The Trump Jury and the ‘Had It Coming to Him’ Factor

Will the verdict in a politically motivated trial also be decided by politics?

by | May 24, 2024 | Articles, Good Reads, Opinion, Politics

As the nation holds its collective breath for a few more days waiting for a verdict in the trial of Donald Trump in Manhattan, the right appears more confident of a Trump acquittal than the left does about a conviction of their archenemy. But all of the collective opinion to date is based on millions of individual views of a trial based largely on reporting and pre-conceived notions rather than a live feed on TV. Those following the story have drawn their own varied conclusions, but of course, the only opinions that matter are those of the 12 jurors who likely feel the weight of the world on their shoulders as they prepare to decide a case that could have a profound effect on the presidential election – no matter their verdict.

So, what criteria will prevail in the minds of the jurors? The judge will provide specific instructions to guide their deliberations when the final stage of the trial commences on Tuesday, May 29. But will that prevent the seven men and five women deciding Trump’s fate from going rogue when they know an acquittal would make Trump’s return to the White House more likely? In fact, the jury has not been sequestered, and thus are able to watch and read coverage of the trial, even though the judge has instructed them not to do so. And they are well aware that finding Trump not guilty on all counts might effectively render the left’s entire lawfare strategy a dead letter, given that the outcomes of the three other trials Trump faces now appear likely to be delayed past the election.

While even some pundits on the left have stipulated that government prosecutors have not proven their flimsy case, the greatest danger for Trump is what we will call the HITCH factor – a “had it coming to him” verdict. After all, with the 45th president now wildly unpopular in his hometown, and with over 90% of Manhattan residents registered as Democrats, will the jury require substantial hard evidence to convict a man many or most of them probably dislike or even hate? Some legal analysts argue that when a juror or witness takes an oath, they become more objective and less opinionated than they were when first entering the courtroom. But this is Donald Trump we’re talking about, and just how are these jurors going to explain to their friends and neighbors that they let the evil orange man off the hook?

Throw Enough Charges Against the Wall …

That brings us to the volume of felony charges – 34 in total. This piling on is understood to be a common practice among prosecutors seeking any kind of conviction who prefer not to put all their eggs in one or two baskets. Put simply, taking 34 bites of the apple is better than one or two, as it gives the jury great latitude to pick and choose between the charges. And with the presumption that some version of HITCH will enter their judgment, wouldn’t the easiest solution be to find him guilty on one count or more? At the same time, the indictment is for 34 separate instances of the same crime, falsifying business records, not for separate or different crimes, so it would make delivering a guilty verdict on just some of the charges more complicated. Liberty Nation Legal Affairs Editor Scott Cosenza elaborates:

“I do not believe the number of crimes alleged will affect the jury’s decision here. No one can say a guilty verdict is probable. Mr. Trump’s motivation for reimbursing Cohen’s payment to Stormy Daniels was hardly proven beyond a reasonable doubt. It is possible, however. Any time a person is in criminal legal jeopardy, a conviction is possible, which is why the grand jury was instituted. Sadly, that check on prosecutorial power is functionally deceased. Also, we should expect some jurors successfully hid their hatred for Trump and relish the thought of sending him up the river.”

Then there is the potential for jury nullification, a practice many claimed jurors employed in the infamous trial of the late O.J. Simpson, which fittingly ended with one of the jurors  performing a black power salute as he left the courtroom. Was the mountain of evidence against Simpson predominant in the minds of the jury? Apparently not, for they reached a not-guilty verdict in short order. The Trump trial is the most high-profile case in the three decades since the O.J. fiasco, and it seems just as likely to render a biased or subjective judgment.

There are also two lawyers on the jury. Being professionally versed in the law, will they stick to a faithful interpretation of the relevant statute(s) or find reasons to warp their judgment, considering the identity of the defendant? It is impossible to know, but on balance, Trump likely prefers to have attorneys on the jury who can explain the intricacies of the law to their fellow jurors. Will one of the lawyers, or another member of the jury, be willing to stand alone and ultimately convince the rest to go along with their judgment, as in the iconic movie 12 Angry Men? Not likely. That was fiction, and something that rarely happens in real life.

Would a Successful Trump Appeal Change the Narrative?

There have been so many instances in the proceedings so far that would seem ripe for appeal in the event of a guilty verdict, not the least of which is the transparent animosity of Judge Juan Merchan towards Trump reflected in instantly sustaining prosecutors’ ubiquitous objections and severely limiting the scope of testimony by key defense witnesses – including one from the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) who was reportedly prepared to testify that Trump’s actions did not violate election law. Incredibly, there is still open debate about what exactly was the underlying crime related to an expired misdemeanor, as it has yet to be specified by the government, even with closing arguments set for the coming week.

But would even a successful appeal erase the label of convicted felon in the court of public opinion? When the conviction of Hollywood Producer Harvey Weinstein was recently overturned on appeal, it hardly changed the public’s opinion of a man vilified by almost everyone. Once again, we will not know whether a potential conviction has already been “baked in” to people’s perception of Trump and this trial – or whether a guilty verdict would turn current public opinion on its head.

For reasons more political than legal, the best-educated guess here – and it’s just a guess – is a hung jury. It is hard to envision every single juror agreeing either that the government proved its case or, on the other hand, that Trump is not guilty on all counts. The question that hangs over the trial is whether an indictment brought for nakedly political purposes will be decided on the same basis by the dozen jurors who hold Donald Trump’s fate in their hands. Will there be a HITCH in the works?

Read More From Tim Donner

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