Michael Cohen Is Prosecutors’ Last Witness In Trump’s Trial. Here’s What Happens Next.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office will soon conclude its case against Donald J. Trump, after having questioned 19 witnesses in an effort to prove that the former president committed 34 felonies. For now, Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s one-time lawyer and fixer who is being cross-examined, will be the last witness of the prosecution’s case.

After Mr. Cohen is off the stand, the defense will have an opportunity to present its own case, calling witnesses and questioning them to try to seed reasonable doubt within the jury. Prosecutors can then put on additional witnesses to rebut expert witness testimony.

But the defense is not required to put on a case, and no defendant is ever required to testify. It is unclear whether Mr. Trump’s lawyers are seeking to call witnesses, including Mr. Trump himself. On Tuesday, Mr. Trump’s lawyers indicated that they had not made a decision as to whether he will testify.

After the defense’s opportunity to present witnesses and evidence, lawyers for both sides deliver closing arguments. That’s when the lawyers summarize the case that jurors have just seen.

Though those arguments typically bear some similarity to the opening statements that begin the trial, they tend to be even more forceful. Lawyers weave together evidence and testimony to convince the jurors either that they have witnessed proof that a crime was committed or that they should acquit because there is plenty of reason for doubt. In New York state courts, defense lawyers offer their summations first, and prosecutors follow.

After closing arguments, the judge will read the jurors instructions that will help them determine the verdict. This is an important moment for both sides: The case against Mr. Trump involves 34 criminal counts that have been charged as felonies because prosecutors say that the former president falsified business records to conceal a second crime. They have argued to the jury that the second crime was a violation of New York’s election law.

Prosecutors do not actually have to prove to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Trump committed that election crime, and it is not clear how the judge will explain to the jury what they should consider. His explanation will be important in the outcome of this complex case.

After the jurors are instructed, they will deliberate. A judge will typically allow deliberations to run for several days, if they must, and urge jurors to reach some kind of agreement. If they can’t, the judge would declare a mistrial — and prosecutors could bring the case again.

If the jury reaches an unanimous verdict, the jurors would return to the courtroom, in this case to announce whether the former president, Mr. Trump, is guilty or not.

This post was originally published on NY Times

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