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Jurors Might Acquit Trump Even if They Know He’s Guilty! Here’s How They Could Do It

Are Trump’s criminal cases enough for juries to find him guilty?

Prosecutors in former President Donald Trump’s election interference case brought up the possibility of “jury nullification”—the idea the juries could determine Trump was guilty but not convict him anyway—in a new legal filing. But before diving into Trump’s criminal cases and how exactly the jury could acquit him, let’s learn more about this peculiar context the former president is in.

Our country has never been in a situation like this where there’s a prospect of holding a former leader to account. Experts agree that while there have been several different defining moments in American history, like the promulgation of the Constitution or the Civil War, this is a defining moment in terms of having not one but many criminal cases involving a former president.

Trump is no stranger to the legal system, and there’s a chance that recent civil judgments may cost him nearly half a billion dollars. However, what makes this a truly defining moment is that Trump is facing 91 criminal charges in four different courtrooms.

To remind everyone of Trump’s criminal cases, here’s how it goes for the former president. In Washington, D.C., and Georgia, he is charged with allegedly plotting to overturn the 2020 election. In New York, Trump is indicted for falsifying business records. And in Florida, he is charged with keeping classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago property.

Special counsel Jack Smith, who is prosecuting Trump, urged the Washington, D.C., judge supervising the former president’s criminal trial to forbid him from bringing up political matters in the courtroom. Trump claims he’s innocent and railed against prosecutors, stating that President Biden ordered them to charge him so Biden could win the 2024 election.

trump's criminal cases
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Trump asks for immunity

Trump recently urged the Supreme Court to find that former presidents are entitled to broad immunity from criminal prosecution for actions taken while in office, claiming that the “long history of not prosecuting” those before him demonstrates that the power to do so doesn’t exist.

So, while Trump’s criminal cases are many, he’s arguing that from 1789 to 2023, no former, or current, chief of state faced criminal prosecution for his official acts. Trump’s team of lawyers also told the court that the president cannot function, and the presidency itself cannot maintain its vital independence, if the president faces criminal charges for official acts once he leaves office.

Moreover, in the 51-page filing, lawyer D. John Sauer asked the Supreme Court to overturn a lower court’s decision that rejected his claim of immunity and order the prosecution filed against him to be dismissed.

Sauer argued that the consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision on presidential immunity aren’t confined only to Trump but rather will impact the presidency itself for the rest of our country’s history.

What is jury nullification, and how may Trump’s criminal cases end in acquittal

According to the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School, jury nullification is when a jury refuses to apply a law or disregards evidence in a case to send a message about some social problem that is bigger than the case itself. This type of action can also be taken to prove that the law is contrary to the jury’s sense of justice, fairness, or morality.

Trump’s criminal cases may be massive, but this doesn’t mean that he cannot be acquitted.

Jury nullification was used before the American colonies became the United States when colonists went against the law to protest British rule. For example, before the American Civil War, Northern juries employed nullification to ignore the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which compelled authorities in Northern states to repatriate enslaved people to their owners in the South should they escape.

Also, during Prohibition, some juries refused to enforce laws barring alcohol.

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Is this legal?

Trump’s criminal cases are a reality that can’t be ignored, but so is the fact that jury nullification is legally controversial. According to political experts, there’s nothing in the law sanctioning this practice, and juries aren’t informed that it’s an option. In fact, it’s instead up to a jury’s discretion.

Some have been punished for drawing attention to jury nullification. In Colorado, two men who spread pamphlets endorsing jury nullification were arrested and accused of tampering with juries.

However, the state’s Supreme Court sided with them, as they didn’t hand out the flyers directly to jurors in a particular case.

While it’s unlikely that jurors in Trump’s criminal cases would use nullification to protest the law under which he is accused, special counsel Jack Smith’s latest filing indicated that prosecutors are concerned that a juror may be convicted by Trump’s allegations that he is the victim of unjust persecution—and let him off the hook.

While the Supreme Court has stated that presidents are immune from liability in civil cases, it has never before decided whether a former president can be charged with a crime for alleged actions within his official duties. For those who want to learn more about how the US government works, here’s a great book that may give you the answers you want.

We recall that Trump’s criminal cases are a first in our country’s history, as he is the first former president to be prosecuted, and he has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The Supreme Court’s deliberation on the immunity issue has already had an impact on two of Trump’s criminal cases—the first in New York’s state court and the second in South Florida’s federal court.

In the New York case, in which the former president pleaded not guilty to accusations of falsifying business records, his lawyers asked a Manhattan judge to postpone the trial until after the Supreme Court rules on whether he is immune from criminal prosecution.

In South Florida, Smith charged the former president with 40 accusations related to his alleged mishandling of sensitive official documents after leaving the White House. Trump is seeking to dismiss the charges on immunity grounds and has pleaded not guilty.

The D.C. case proceedings have been suspended since December 2023 as Trump filed an appeal against U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan’s decision rejecting his claim of broad immunity. The case will stay on hold until the Supreme Court issues its decision, which is expected by the end of June.

A ruling in Trump’s favor would end Smith’s investigation of the former president in Washington. If the court finds he’s not entitled to legal protections and allows the criminal prosecution to move forward, it’s unclear whether a trial could happen before the 2024 presidential election, in which President Biden and Trump are their respective parties’ presumptive presidential nominees.

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What makes a ‘good’ juror for this trial?

Jurors might have strong thoughts about the former presidents, but some former prosecutors expressed confidence that jurors could leave those feelings aside and deliver a fair verdict. While Trump’s criminal cases are a hot topic right now and the former president’s recognizability makes jury selection unique, lawyers will likely still search for the same red flags that apply for jury selection in typical criminal trials.

In addition to political bias, attorneys will likely look for jurors’ preexisting knowledge of Trump’s criminal cases. Lawyers have suggested asking the jurors if they have seen or read news coverage about Trump or read books authored by him or by his former attorney, Michael Cohen, who is expected to testify at the trial.

According to experts, jurors’ thoughts about the nature of Trump’s criminal cases—such as being skeptical of financial accusations—could concern the prosecutors on the case. They also point out that trying to find a pool of people who don’t know, don’t have an opinion about Trump, or haven’t heard about the case is going to take time.

If you liked our article on Trump’s criminal cases, you may also want to read 7 Reasons Why Trump Shouldn’t Be President Again.

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