Trump trial: What happens next?

Closing arguments to begin in former president's hush money court case

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New York prosecutors and Donald Trump's lawyers will make their closing arguments at his hush money trial on Tuesday in a final bid to convince the 12 jurors who decide whether he will become the first US president to be convicted of a crime.

Mr Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to hide a $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election to keep her quiet about an alleged affair.

The case may hinge on whether jurors believe Mr Trump had an intent to defraud as well as conceal other crimes, namely election law and tax violations.

Here is a look at what could happen next:

After closing arguments

A critical moment will take place, perhaps on Wednesday morning, before the jury begins its deliberations.

Judge Juan Merchan is expected to spend about an hour instructing the jury on the law governing the case, providing a road map for what it can and cannot take into account as it evaluates the Republican former president's guilt or innocence.

In an indication of how important those instructions are, prosecutors and defence lawyers last week sought to persuade Mr Merchan about the orders he should give.

The Trump team sought an instruction informing jurors that the types of hush money payments at issue in Mr Trump’s case are not inherently illegal, a request a prosecutor called “totally inappropriate”.

The judge said such an instruction would go too far and is unnecessary.

Jurors deliberate

Following instructions from the judge, and after six weeks of trial, prosecutors will sum up the witnesses and evidence they have presented as they argue that Mr Trump, 77, illegally falsified business documents to cover up the payment that ensured Ms Daniels would not go public with her story of a 2006 sexual encounter. Mr Trump denies wrongdoing.

Prosecutors must prove that Mr Trump is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt”, the level of certainty required by US law. They will make their presentation after the defence, as is standard in New York criminal trials.

“Why can't the defence go last? Big advantage, very unfair. Witch hunt!” Mr Trump said on his Truth Social platform on Monday night.

To reach a verdict on any given count, either guilty or not guilty, all 12 jurors must agree with the decision for the judge to accept it.

Things will get trickier if the jury can't reach a consensus after several days of deliberations.

Though defence lawyers might seek an immediate mistrial, Mr Merchan is likely to call the jurors in and instruct them to keep trying for a verdict and to be willing to reconsider their positions without abandoning their conscience or judgment merely to go along with others.

What if he is convicted?

If found guilty, Mr Trump faces up to four years in prison, although imprisonment is unlikely for a first-time felon convicted of such a crime.

A conviction will not prevent Mr Trump from trying to take back the White House from Democratic President Joe Biden as the Republican candidate in the November 5 election, nor would it prevent him from taking office if he won. Opinion polls show the two candidates locked in a tight race, with Mr Trump maintaining a slight advantage.

Updated: May 28, 2024, 2:09 PM