Home Politics Hush Money Trial Recap: Could the Closing Arguments & Judge’s Instructions Impact the Verdict?

Hush Money Trial Recap: Could the Closing Arguments & Judge’s Instructions Impact the Verdict?

by Scott Kacsmar
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Hush Money Trial

Following closing arguments on Tuesday, the world awaits the verdict in Donald Trump’s historic hush money trial after the jury began deliberations on Wednesday in the first-ever criminal trial involving a former U.S. president.

Trump faces 34 felony charges related to falsifying business records by making hush money payments to women he had affairs with that would influence the 2016 presidential election.

The charges of falsifying business records by themselves are not felonies, but it is a felony if they were done to commit another crime like illegally influencing a presidential election. Some believe a verdict will be reached by the jury by Friday, some think it will take until next week, and some think this will end in a hung jury, which is a favorable outcome for Trump.

Going into Thursday’s deliberation, let’s look at where things stand, what the political betting sites have for odds on the outcome of this historic hush money trial for Trump and our prediction on the verdict.

Hush Money Trial Recap: Tuesday’s Closing Arguments

Tuesday was a long day in the Manhattan courtroom as both sides delivered closing arguments in this hush money trial of Donald Trump.

His defense took centerstage first, and they spent that time attacking the credibility of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer. They tried to catch Cohen in lies on the stand, lies in the past and referred to him as the Greatest Liar of All Time.

Cohen is the star witness for the prosecution, and he has already pleaded guilty and gone to prison in part for his role in the hush money payments to women whom Trump had corroborated affairs with.

When the prosecution delivered their closing arguments, they defended Cohen’s credibility on things related to his history with Trump, and they also made it clear that this case goes beyond Cohen’s words. There was evidence of Trump signing a check in his Sharpie pen to Cohen, evidence of reimbursing Cohen for making the hush money payments and phone calls between the two about the payments and affair scandals.

The prosecution also made a point to go over their evidence in detail, and that the testimony of David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer, was “utterly damning”.

The Jury’s Early Questions

A few hours into Wednesday’s jury deliberations, the jury requested to hear back about a half-hour testimony by Pecker and Cohen stemming from an August 2015 meeting between those two, Trump and Trump aide Hope Hicks. This was a conversation in which Pecker said he would be Trump’s “eyes and ears” regarding any negative stories about him during his campaign.

The jury also wanted to hear Pecker’s testimony about a phone call from Trump discussing a rumor that Karen McDougal, the former Playboy model Trump had an affair with, had gone to another publication to release her story.

These readbacks will take place on Thursday, and the jury also asked to rehear the judge’s instructions from Wednesday, which took about an hour to go through the challenges of the 34 felony counts against Trump.

The instructions were lengthy, but here are some of the key points made to the jury summarized from the court document by CNN:

  • They cannot hold it against Trump for not testifying.
  • The “people must prove beyond a reasonable doubt every element of the crime.” The jury was reminded it must not rest its verdict on speculation.
  • Trump cannot be convicted on Michael Cohen’s testimony alone because he was an accomplice, but they can use his evidence if corroborated with other evidence.
  • The jury must be unanimous if finding Trump guilty on each count – on whether he committed the crime personally, acted in concert with others, or both.
  • They must conclude if Trump conspired to promote someone or prevent them from public office by unlawful means.

Here is what Judge Juan Merchan told the jury about the law regarding falsifying business records:

“You must find beyond a reasonable doubt first that he solicited, requested, commanded, importuned or intentionally aided that person to engage in that conduct, and second, that he did so with the state of mind required with the commission of the offense.”

The judge’s instructions will be reread on Thursday.

Oddsmakers Favor a Guilty Verdict

You can of course bet on the outcome of the Trump hush money trial in New York. At Bovada (find out more with our Bovada Review), there is a market for whether or not Trump will be found guilty of 1 or more felonies in this case.

“Yes” is favored with -210 odds, which is about 67.7% implied probability. “No” has +155 odds. Remember, there are 34 counts in all, and Michael Cohen has already gone to prison in part for the hush money payments he made that are at the center of this trial. There is little denying they did this in 2016 to try silencing those women Trump had affairs with, but it comes down to the 12-member jury agreeing.

This is one of the most high-profile trials of all time given the historical precedence involving a U.S. president. However, we have seen verdicts go against expectations in high-profile trials before, whether it was O.J. Simpson or Casey Anthony.

Will There Be a Hung Jury and Mistrial?

The other betting market at Bovada relates to this trial ending in a hung jury and mistrial. Here are the odds on that:

  • Jury to be hung and judge to call a mistrial (+175)
  • Verdict or partial verdict to be reached (-240)

These odds only imply a 36.4% chance of a hung jury and mistrial, but this is Donald Trump we’re talking about. He has avoided serious consequences, especially in a legal setting, his whole life. He is essentially a modern-day leader who received over 74 million votes in the 2020 election.

What are the chances none of the 12 jurors are supportive enough of Trump to hang this jury? There was a lengthy process of jury selection but people lie too. It just does not feel likely that they managed to find 12 completely unbiased people to serve in this jury, as just about everyone should have some opinion, good or bad, about Trump in 2024.

Other factors that can increase the likelihood of a hung jury are cases where the evidence is not strong and when there are multiple counts to go over. This case has Michael Cohen, a shady character in his own right, at the center of the prosecution’s evidence, and it has 34 counts to go over.

We could be in for a long week and no conclusive outcome.

And the Verdict Is…

If this was Richard Nixon, I would say there’d be an outcome and a guilty verdict. However, Trump is not your normal former president. He walked out of Wednesday’s proceedings and called everything rigged and that the judge is corrupt.

Yes, even infamous Chicago gangster Al Capone went down on tax evasion charges. But Trump is a different beast with a large following. Many legal experts have said the length of deliberation has little to no correlation with what the outcome will be for a trial. This jury so far looks to be doing its due diligence to get this right, but taking their time still does not guarantee a bad outcome for Trump. There are a lot of charges and legal language to go through.

However, the weight of importance of this case, especially in an election year, cannot be overstated.

It’s also hard to trust the average juror in understanding the concept of “beyond a reasonable doubt” as the word “reasonable” seems to be thrown out the window in cases once thought to be a slam dunk. Still, most agreed this was the weakest of the 4 indictments brought against Trump, and it’s a bad look that it is the first and likely only trial that is going to finish before the November election.

My pick is we don’t even get a verdict after many days of deliberations. At least 1 person is going to hang the jury, the judge will declare a mistrial and Trump’s odds to win in November will likely skyrocket.

Pick: Jury to Be Hung and Judge to Call a Mistrial (+175) at Bovada

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Scott Kacsmar
NFL football picks are Scott Kacsmar's expertise, serving as his main focus. He has contributed to various sports websites and blogs, such as NBC Sports, ESPN Insider, FiveThirtyEight, and, JoeWager. Originating from Pittsburgh, Scott maintains a love-hate connection with the Pirates.

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