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The 3 ways Trump's hush money trial could end, as jury deliberations begin soon

Former U.S. President Donald Trump with attorney Todd Blanche speaks to the media during his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments, at Manhattan Criminal Court on Tuesday in New York City.
Curtis Means
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Pool/Getty Images
Former U.S. President Donald Trump with attorney Todd Blanche speaks to the media during his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments, at Manhattan Criminal Court on Tuesday in New York City.

The hush money trial against former President Donald Trump is nearing its end, but the jury has yet to decide Trump’s fate.

The jury has to consider 34 charges against the Republican nominee. If they find Trump guilty, he could face prison time.

The team at NPR's Trump's Trials podcast spoke to former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman, who breaks down three broad possible conclusions the jury could reach.

1. Trump is found guilty

If the jury finds Trump guilty of all 34 counts, he would be eligible for a prison sentence. But Litman says there's “no chance, as I see it, he’s actually incarcerated before November.”

That’s because sentencing hearings are typically scheduled a few months after the verdict. Litman says even if Judge Juan Merchan chooses to give Trump a couple months in prison, it wouldn’t happen right away. If found guilty, Trump would very likely appeal the decision and any jail time would be stayed while the appeal works its way through the courts, which could take years.

2. It’s a hung jury

If the jury cannot reach a verdict, the judge will likely declare a mistrial. The Manhattan district attorney can then choose to retry the case with a new jury. But Litman suspects the political calendar would complicate any immediate retrial because it could run up against the November election.

“I think they will retry it, but not until after the election. And of course, once the election happens, all bets are off.”

Litman says he is concerned there could be a hung jury, but adds that this worry is a part of any jury trial. Litman was in the courtroom for several days, allowing him to observe the jury as they listened to testimony. He says he paid close attention to how the jury was following the case, and “I like [the prosecution’s] odds of there not being a holdout juror.”

Litman also points out that Trump might be able to play a mistrial to his advantage and spin it as a victory. Trump has continually claimed, without evidence, that this case is a “witch hunt,” is politically motivated, and is the Democrats’ attempt at interfering with his campaign.

Speaking outside the courtroom last week, Trump said, “This is all about Biden, can’t campaign so he’s trying to injure his opponent. They’re trying to hurt the opponent because they can’t win it fair and square.”

3. Trump is acquitted

If the jury finds Trump not guilty on all 34 counts, the prosecution would be unable to try him again. This would be a major political win for Trump, but Litman believes the chances of acquittal are “zero.”

As the case has progressed, Trump has repeatedly used the drama inside of the courtroom as an incentive to his followers to donate to his campaign. Sending fundraising emails with provocative headlines like “I demand a mistrial!” and “They want me in HANDCUFFS."

When can we expect a verdict?

The jury is expected to start deliberations on Wednesday, at which point they could reach a decision as early as the same day. Litman predicts that Friday afternoon may be the sweet spot.

Deliberations could go into the first week of June. Litman says the longer the jury deliberates, the greater the chance of a mistrial.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Tyler Bartlam
[Copyright 2024 NPR]