Politics

‘Crazy!’ Legal Expert Slams Trump Hush Money Judge’s Jury Instructions

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.


A seasoned defense attorney heavily criticized Judge Juan Merchan’s lengthy instructions to the jury in former President Donald Trump’s hush money case in Manhattan before he sent them to deliberate the case on Wednesday.

After a brief sidebar between Judge Merchan and all of the lawyers involved, the jury was sent off to begin deliberations in the unprecedented case involving a former U.S. president. David Oscar Markus, a seasoned criminal defense attorney, expressed his astonishment at the judge’s behavior during this critical phase on CNN.

“The jury must be overwhelmed,” Markus told a CNN panel. “To have all of these instructions just read to them without them getting a copy is going to be overwhelming for them.”

Jurors usually get a written copy of the instructions during their discussions. But in this trial, they will only use their notes and can ask for the instructions to be reread, which Markus strongly criticized.

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“It’s crazy that the lawyers were not able to discuss the instructions in their closings yesterday,” he added. “Typically, lawyers can go through the instructions and explain why they’ve met them or why the government hasn’t met them.”

The absence of a critical discussion phase requires jurors to piece together the legal puzzle independently, which is a challenging task given the complexity and significance of the case. “The jurors right now must be wondering what all this is about,” Markus explained.

At one point, a few hours into deliberating on Wednesday, jurors sent a couple of notes to Merchan. The first one requested, per NBC News:

  • David Pecker’s testimony regarding the phone conversation with Trump while Pecker was in the investor meeting
  • Pecker’s testimony regarding life rights for Karen McDougal
  • Pecker’s testimony regarding the Trump Tower meeting
  • Michael Cohen’s testimony regarding the Trump Tower meeting

The second, unsurprisingly, requested that Merchan repeat his instructions, which he spent more than an hour providing before dismissing the jury for deliberations. “Merchan wants the jurors to clarify whether they want the entire instructions again or just a particular part,” NBC reported.

Following the proceedings, Trump made several posts to his Truth Social account, most of which quoted other legal experts who either criticized the proceedings or the fact that they see no real crime having been committed.

He also included commentary from others, including Fox News host Greg Gutfeld, who summed up what many Americans see or feel about the trial.

“No one knows what the crime is, but it’s the trial – That is the crime. What is interesting about this is it paints Trump in an incredibly appealing way. He’s up against the wall. Meanwhile, Joe Biden needs a wall to stand up on. And this guy, he’s best when he’s angry, and he’s focused, and he’s direct,” Gutfeld said, according to Trump’s post.

“When you compare the way he is, and that kind of energy to what is in the White House now, it’s persuasive. I mean, you look at this guy, and you go, ‘I get it, that guy’s pissed off, and he’s clear.’ Meanwhile, this guy speaks in these amorphous fantasies about ‘a threat to Democracy.’ He can’t solve anything. He doesn’t know what’s going on, and this guy is fighting for his life. I mean, it’s a pretty stark choice for Americans if they‘re paying attention to this, but maybe most of them, they’re tuned out, because they know this is all B.S.,” he added.

Defense attorney Leo Terrell noted: “This is not a courtroom…It is not legal. I’ve been in court for 30 plus years and what is happening in New York, the Democrats, they have hijacked the legal system, and it is outright embarrassing to lawyers.”

Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) added: “Democrats are shredding 250 years of constitutional tradition to go after their political opponent.”

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