ANALYSIS: Experts Offer Predictions Ahead of Verdict in Trump’s Criminal Trial

Legal commentators see distinct possibilities, from a guilty verdict to a hung jury, to full-blown acquittal.

As the government finishes making its case in the high-profile criminal trial of Donald J. Trump, observers of the proceedings are sharply split on potential outcomes.

One legal expert told The Epoch Times that from the beginning signs have been present the likely verdict has little to do with the legal issues involved and more to do with prosecutors’ agenda.

Others cite the possibility of a hung jury or even an acquittal.

“The chances of President Trump getting convicted are pretty good, I think. This is such a politically charged situation. There’s no precedent for it,” Harvey Kushner, chair of the criminal justice department at Long Island University, told The Epoch Times.

Mr. Kushner said that actor Robert De Niro spoke at a Biden campaign rally outside the courthouse—as the attorneys launched into their closing statements—reflected the politicized nature of the proceedings.

He added the extent of anti-Trump sentiment among large swaths of the media and entertainment industries has largely shaped public perceptions of the case.

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Other legal experts dissented, though none of them questioned the degree of politicization at work in the coverage the trial has received in the national media.

After weeks of testimony from witnesses—as varied as former adult actress Stormy Daniels, onetime White House communications director Hope Hicks, former Oval Office operations director Madeleine Westerhout, former American Media International CEO David Pecker, and star government witness, erstwhile Trump lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen—the defense and the prosecution set about summarizing their respective cases on the jury on May 28.

Defense attorney Todd Blanche dwelled heavily on Mr. Cohen’s extensive and admitted record of having lied under oath and on the impossibility, as Mr. Blanche saw it, of accepting anything the witness said in testimony as a basis for a highly consequential legal decision.

Mr. Blanche went so far as to call Mr. Cohen “the human embodiment of reasonable doubt, literally,“ and ”the greatest liar of all time.”

Government lawyer Joshua Steinglass called this emphasis a “deflection” and cited other testimony throughout the weeks of proceedings as a basis for holding President Trump liable for two intertwined offenses, namely the falsification of business records and the illicit influencing of an election.

The closing statements of both sides largely mirrored arguments they had made during their direct and cross-examination of various witnesses.

The testiness of Mr. Blanche’s initial exchange with Mr. Cohen on the stand on May 14—in which the defense lawyer asked the witness to confirm that he had called Mr. Blanche “a crying little [expletive]” on social media—was so severe that Justice Juan Merchan, who has sustained numerous government objections to questions throughout the trial and never gotten along well with the defense, struck the question and called a sidebar.

(Left) Judge Juan M. Merchan poses in his chambers in New York City, on March 14, 2024. (Right) Former President Donald Trump at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on March 25, 2024. (Seth Wenig/AP Photo; Spencer Platt/AFP via Getty Images)
(Left) Judge Juan M. Merchan poses in his chambers in New York City, on March 14, 2024. (Right) Former President Donald Trump at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on March 25, 2024. (Seth Wenig/AP Photo; Spencer Platt/AFP via Getty Images)

The Jury Pool

In Mr. Kushner’s view, the legal arguments made in the courtroom and the testimony of the various witnesses may ultimately be of secondary importance when compared with the jury composition.

During voir dire, it emerged that many prospective jurors relied upon news from the Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, and other publications known to take critical stances against President Trump.

Mr. Kushner said that he had held out hope that the presence of two lawyers on the jury would help lend some nonpartisan perspective to its deliberations.

Still, he added this hope faded as events during the trial laid bare the judge’s predisposition and the mainstream media stepped up their slanted coverage of the case.

“There are a couple of lawyers on the jury. One would hope that with their training, they would retain some of what they learned in law school and would not go along with a conviction.

“But then again, a jury pool in New York is not likely to be favorable to President Trump,” Mr. Kushner said, alluding to the fact that 84.5 percent of Manhattan voters backed Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

“I teach a course on the media’s impact on the criminal justice system, and we talk about how the media are editorializing. And it seems to get worse.

“I would think that he’s going to get convicted on a couple of counts,” he added.

Mr. Kushner said that one of the tipping points that led him to view the trial as politicized came during defense witness Robert Costello’s testimony a week ago when Justice Merchan blew up at the witness for not respecting decorum in his courtroom.

He ordered the court to be cleared and warned the defense that further infractions would lead him to hold Mr. Costello in contempt and strike all his testimony.

“First of all, I thought Costello did a bad job as a defense witness. But when the judge stopped and admonished him, I thought that went off the rails in terms of how a judge would act,” said Mr. Kushner.

Other legal experts believe that a conviction is unlikely.

To hold President Trump liable for a felony, simply for having misrepresented payments to Mr. Cohen as legal expenses, crosses the line into semantics and sophistry, and has no basis in any legal precedent, they argue.

Mark Graber, a professor at Francis King Carey School of Law in Maryland, does not find President Trump wholly blameless but still sees potential outcomes other than a felony conviction.

“I think a hung jury is always possible in a high-stakes criminal trial,” Mr. Graber told The Epoch Times.

John Feehery, a political strategist who once worked as an aide to Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), said that President Trump may yet get off.

“I would put acquittal at 60 percent, conviction at 20 percent, and a hung jury at 20 percent. It is such a weak case. I would be shocked if he were not acquitted,” Mr. Feehery told The Epoch Times.

District Attorney Bragg’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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