May 19, 2024

delayed justice delivered

IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 11, 2024
Today’s Events in Historical Perspective                                                                     
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
Justice delayed, justice delivered?
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift         
 
          WASHINGTON — Justice delayed, justice denied, is the mantra, but for Donald Trump it is justice delayed, justice delivered. Deny, deflect, and buy time.
          Of the possible outcomes – all based upon various forms of delay – in his upcoming hush money trial, the first is acquittal, which is not likely. The second is a hung jury where all it would take is a single holdout to maintain the former president’s innocence. This would force a new trial, and it would not be immediate.
          A third possible outcome could result from juror misbehavior. In an emotionally charged high-profile trial, jurors can make innocent mistakes such as inadvertent talk in the jury room that the judge deems to be prejudicial. Or there could be calculated misbehavior by jurors to contact reporters or to take steps that could be interpreted as an effort to enrich themselves given their proximity to information. Anything of this nature would halt the proceedings and also require a new trial.
          Lastly, if the trial ends in a conviction on one or more of the 34 counts, Trump will appeal, and he will be released on bail on his own recognizance. As the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, he will not be considered a flight risk. Appeals are notoriously slow, and this would probably be heard and decided after the November election, and one typical outcome could be that the case is remanded back for retrial by the lower court. Here Trump would be banking on two assumptions: First that he wins the election and, two, that as president he would be immune from a state court conviction.
          As the first former president to face trial for numerous counts of felony indictments, he is already laying the appellate groundwork, claiming he cannot get a fair jury in New York, that there is too much publicity, even though most of it he created.
          Meanwhile, he is a defendant in three other trials, the New York case being the only one so far that has a start date. Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan DA who brought the financial fraud case against Trump, acknowledges that it is not illegal to pay hush money as Trump did to Stormy Daniels, an actress in adult films, to keep her from going public with her story of their liaison. Where Trump ran afoul of the law was when he concealed the money as a business expense allegedly to keep his behavior secret from the voters during the 2016 election.
          The prosecution’s bulwark against delaying tactics from this master delayer is going to be the all-critical jury selection. Prospective jurors will be screened to find 12 citizens of New York who believe they can judge Trump fairly based on the evidence. They will be asked where they get their news in an effort by lawyers for both the prosecution and the defense to weed out partisans without directly asking about political allegiances.
          But the prosecution and defense only have a limited number of preemptive challenges that allow them to reject prospective jurors without cause. After those challenges have been expended it will get dicey. It will be up to the prosecution through the voir dire process of prospective juror questioning to somehow separate the wheat from the chaff, the chaff being individuals who attempt to conceal their pro-Trump biases. This is critical because any verdict must be unanimous.
          Of the four criminal trials Trump faces, this hush money trial is the one that comes closest to having a smoking gun. The paper trail, including tax returns, and witness sworn testimony leave no doubt that the hush money was reported as a business expense, which means a conviction by unbiased jurors is highly likely, the operative word being “unbiased.”
          If this comes to pass, it all may be for naught if the penalty is a slap on the wrist, because this, too, would be a Trump victory he will not wear as a “Scarlet A” for adultery, but as a donation-begetting “Scarlet P” for persecution.
 
          Eleanor Clift’s latest book Selecting a President, and Douglas Cohn’s latest books The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency and World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers).
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2024 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

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