Jury Begins Deliberations On Convicting Trump After Judge Gives ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Instructions

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Judge Juan Merchan instructed the jury Wednesday on how to interpret the law as they prepare to decide former President Donald Trump’s guilt or innocence, telling jurors they do not need to agree on the “unlawful” means prosecutors allege Trump used to influence the 2016 election.

The jury began deliberations Wednesday and could return a verdict the same day, though there is no time limit on coming to a decision. Jurors will not receive copies of Merchan’s instructions, but can ask for portions to be re-read as needed during deliberations.

“You are the judges of the facts, and you are responsible for deciding whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty,” Merchan began by telling jurors, according to The New York Times.

Trump was indicted on 34 counts for allegedly falsifying business records related to reimbursing his former attorney Michael Cohen for a $130,000 payment made to keep porn star Stormy Daniels quiet about claims of an affair ahead of the 2016 election. The records behind the charges include 11 checks, 11 invoices and 12 ledger entries. (RELATED: ‘Greatest Liar Of All Time’: Trump Defense Closes With All-Out Assault On Michael Cohen’s Credibility)

In order to bring the charges as felonies, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg had to allege they were done with the intent to conceal or commit another crime: a violation of New York election law that makes it a misdemeanor to conspire to influence an election through “unlawful means.”

“Intent to defraud” means a “conscious objective or purpose,” Merchan told jurors. It can be a “general intent” to defraud “any person or entity,” he explained, according to multiple reports.

Prosecutors allege the Daniels payment was part of a broader “conspiracy” Trump engaged in to influence the election through “unlawful” means.

Merchan outlined the three crimes jurors can consider as the “unlawful” means: either a violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), the falsification of other business records or violations of tax fraud. Jurors need not agree on the specific “unlawful” means Trump used, Merchan explained, according to the NYT.

Payments that would have been made regardless of whether an individual was a political candidate should not be treated as campaign contributions, Merchan said, according to CNN. Media activities are not considered contributions “so long as such activity is a normal, legitimate press function,” he said.

Merchan also reminded jurors early on in his instructions that some pieces of evidence can only be used for specific purposes, like evaluating witness credibility or providing context, not as indications of guilt.

If jurors believe a witness “intentionally testified falsely,” they can disregard all or part of his testimony, Merchan explained, according to CNN. He told jurors they cannot convict Trump on Cohen’s testimony alone and without other evidence, as he is “an accomplice.”

The jury includes seven men and five women. Two individuals on the jury are attorneys.

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