Judge Says Jury Cannot Convict Trump Based on Michael Cohen’s Testimony

Judge Says Jury Cannot Convict Trump Based on Michael Cohen’s Testimony
(Left) Judge Juan M. Merchan poses in his chambers in New York on March 14, 2024. (Right) Former President Donald Trump arrives at 40 Wall Street after his court hearing in New York on March 25, 2024. (Seth Wenig/AP Photo; Charly Triballeau/via Getty Images)

The judge overseeing former President Donald Trump’s criminal case in New York told the jury that they cannot convict the former president solely based on Michael Cohen’s earlier witness testimony.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan said that Mr. Cohen, who was the former president’s lawyer and associate, is considered an accomplice in the case. Justice Merchan said the jury can use his testimony if they corroborate it with other evidence.

Earlier in the trial, Mr. Cohen testified that he believed President Trump was directly involved with a reimbursement plan to him involving an adult film actress, which prosecutors say is a crime.

“Under our law Michael Cohen is an accomplice,” the judge said, adding that if “you find the testimony of Michael Cohen to be believable, you may not convict the defendant solely upon that testimony unless you also find it’s corroborated by other evidence.”

They can use several factors to assess witness testimony, including its plausibility, its consistency with other testimony, the witness’ manner on the stand, and whether the person has a motive to lie. But, the judge said, “there is no particular formula for evaluating the truthfulness and accuracy of another person’s statement.”

The principles he outlined are standard but perhaps all the more relevant after President Trump’s defense questioned the credibility of key prosecution witnesses, including Mr. Cohen.

He noted that even though the defense presented evidence, the burden of proof remains on the prosecutor and that President Trump is “not required to prove that he is not guilty,” adding, “the defendant is not required to prove or disprove anything.”

“As a juror, you are asked to make a very important decision about another member of the community,” Justice Merchan told the jury, adding that jurors need to “set aside any personal bias you may have in favor of or against” the former president and decide on the case “based on the evidence of the law.”

The judge told jurors, “it is not my responsibility to judge the evidence here. It is yours.”

After he gave the instructions, the jury started its deliberations on President Trump’s charges starting after 11 a.m. Eastern time. It’s not clear when the jury will render its decision, and it could take days.

Justice Merchan told President Trump and his lawyers: “You cannot leave the building. We need you to be able to get here quickly if we do receive a note.”

On Tuesday, lawyers for the former president and prosecutors made their closing arguments in the case, with President Trump’s team asking the jury to return a not guilty verdict. Prosecutors, however, said that there is enough evidence to convict him of falsifying business records in the case.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass told jurors Tuesday: “No one is saying the defendant actually got behind a computer and typed in the false vouchers or stamped the false invoices or printed the false checks.”

“But he set in motion a chain of events that led to the creation of the false business records,” he alleged.

Lawyers for the former president targeted Mr. Cohen’s testimony, accusing him of telling “lies” to the jury and being the “Greatest Liar of All Time,” or “GLOAT.”

“He’s repeatedly lied under oath. He’s lied to his family. He lied to his wife about the home equity line of credit. … He lied to his banker,” Trump attorney Todd Blanche told the court Tuesday.

Furthermore, Mr. Blanche claimed that prosecutors are “perfectly happy” to have a witness “commit perjury” and “to lie to you,” prompting an objection from prosecutors.

Mr. Blanche focused heavily on a phone call that Mr. Cohen made to a Trump bodyguard, Keith Schiller, on Oct. 24, 2016.

“That was his sworn testimony. It was a lie. … This isn’t little lie. This was a lie about the charged conduct involving Ms. Daniels. He told you he talked to President Trump on October 24 at 8:02 p.m., updating him about the Daniels situation. That was a lie and he got caught red-handed,” Mr. Blanche said.

The former president has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Before Wednesday’s deliberations, President Trump again said the trial is being carried out in a “kangaroo court” and that prosecutors’ claims on Tuesday were “boring,” according to multiple Truth Social posts he made. He also targeted Justice Merchan, saying the judge is “conflicted” and said the nondisclosure agreements at issue in the case are “totally legal and accepted.”

The Associated Press and Michael Washburn contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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