Muted frenzy in the courtroom when Trump verdict came in


Just before 4:15 Thursday afternoon, Donald Trump’s voice could be heard, muffled, from beyond the thick doors of Manhattan Criminal Court’s room 1530.

“I want to campaign,” Trump said to the TV cameras positioned in the hallway.

He and his entourage entered the courtroom and took their places at the defense table and in two rows of gallery benches behind. 

Prosecutors had already filed in. A few minutes later, Justice Juan Merchan arrived. 

Merchan said he brought the two sides to the room because he intended to excuse the jury at 4:30 p.m., the usual close of business in New York courts. He wanted everyone present to end the day’s proceedings.

“We’ll give them a few more minutes, and then we’ll excuse them,” Merchan said.

Merchan then left for the robing room, saying he’d return shortly.

When a jury that’s heard a trial in room 1530 is deliberating, the outside world is typically informed that the jurors have a question, a note, or a verdict, when an antiquated bell rings.The court officer-enforced silence of the courtroom is suddenly jolted by the noise, like an apartment door buzzer coupled with a tinny bell.

That noise rang out twice Wednesday afternoon, when the jurors requested a read-back of testimony and the judge’s instructions. 

Thursday began with Merchan re-reading his part of their request. Two court reporters then performed the testimony for the jury – one in a flat monotone and thick New York accent, the other animatedly reading her lines — playing the parts of David Pecker and Michael Cohen, among others. Then the jury of seven men and five women went back to deliberate. 

The rest of the day was filled with radio silence. No bells, no notes. 

But they were working, deliberating, reaching a consensus.

It appears when the jury was told they’d soon be excused, they said they weren’t quite ready to go. 

As 4:30 came and went, back in the courtroom, the lawyers and the defendant stirred with casual annoyance.

Where’s the judge? And how about the jury?

The defendant had a tight schedule. He’s not only a former president, but the presumptive Republican nominee for president again. His communications director Steven Cheung and other aides were in the second row of the gallery. His son Eric sat in the first row, next to Alina Habba, a spokesperson for the Trump legal effort.

At 4:36, the judge came in.

“I apologize for the delay,” Merchan said. “We received a note. It was signed by the jury foreperson at 4:20. It’s marked as Court Exhibit Number 7.”

The note included an announcement, followed by a very polite request:

‘We, the jury, have a verdict. We would like an extra 30 minutes to fill out the forms. Will that be possible?”

Imagine the sound of dozens of people losing, and quickly catching, their breaths.

Courtroom decorum demands quiet. So a muted frenzy ensued. 

Prosecutors whispered, Trump’s team rustled and tapped away on phones. Dozens of reporters’ keyboards clattered. Some grumbled about the room’s poor wi-fi. Courtroom officers admonished the grumblers.

Trump’s demeanor shifted. 

He had seemed jovial, chatting with attorney Todd Blanche before news of the verdict. After the announcement, he sat as he had through much of the trial, motionless, a little slumped in his seat, facing straight ahead.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who attended the trial only intermittently, arrived to watch the outcome of perhaps the most scrutinized, and historic, case he’ll ever lead.

Every seat in the courtroom was taken. It was standing room only, and the only people standing were court officers. They paced the aisle and perimeter, keeping the restive silence and patrolling for cellphones, a quiet courtroom’s truest enemy.

The minutes pass by slowly, hushed, as one of the world’s most powerful people awaited his fate. 

Just after 5 p.m. Merchan returned. He reread the jury’s note into the record.

“Are we ready to bring out the jury?” Merchan asked.

“Yes, Judge,” said prosecutor Joshua Steinglass, who exactly two days earlier at 5 p.m. was merely halfway through a marathon closing argument that kept the courtroom open well into the evening.

“Yes,” Trump attorney Todd Blanche said.

“Bring out the jury, please,” Merchan said.

5:04 p.m.: Through a side door, six alternate jurors walked in and were given front row seats in the gallery. They attended the trial dutifully for weeks, taking notes so copious Merchan complimented them on how seriously they took their jobs, despite knowing they might not get to weigh in on the final decision.

5:05 p.m.: “All rise,” a court officer bellowed. Trump stood, his arms at his sides. 

None of the jurors looked at Trump as they filed past; many had their eyes to the ground. Throughout the trial, as jurors came and went, he stared at them, but they rarely met his gaze. This time he focused straight ahead. 

Everyone sat and Merchan recounted the note one more time.

In New York, the first juror seated is automatically the foreperson. He sat silently for weeks, but his moment was approaching. The eyes of the court, and the attention of the world, were about to turn to him.

“Mr. Foreperson,” Merchan said, his voice seeming to waver slightly, “without telling me the verdict, has the jury, in fact, reached a verdict?”

“Yes, they have,” he said. 

Eric Trump could be seen briefly shaking his head.  

“Take the verdict, please,” Merchan said to the court’s clerk, who asked the foreperson to rise.

He stood, leaning his left arm on a banister as his right hand held a microphone.

“How say you to the first count of the indictment, charging Donald J. Trump with the crime of falsifying business records in the first degree, guilty or not guilty?” the clerk asked.

“Guilty.”

“How say you to count two?”

“Guilty.”

“How say you to count three?”

“Guilty.”

Trump’s eyes appeared to close, and his head shook slightly, lips pursed and eyes downcast. 

Each count corresponds with a different check, invoice or voucher falsified at Trump’s behest, to cover up a conspiracy to influence the 2016 election through unlawful means. So after the third count, it was hard to image any of the remaining 31 being “not guilty.” Still, he had to sit and listen. 

“How say you to count four?”

“Guilty.”

“How say you to count five?”

“Guilty.”

“How say you to count six?”

“Guilty.”

“How say you to count seven?”

“Guilty.”

“How say you to count eight?”

“Guilty.”

“How say you to count nine?”

“Guilty.”

“How say you to count 10?” 

“Guilty.”

As the foreman read, a number of the jurors kept their eyes down.

“How say you to count 11?”

“Guilty.”

“How say you to count 12?” 

“Guilty.”

“How say you to count 13?” 

“Guilty.”

“How say you to count 14?” 

“Guilty.”

“How say you to count 15?” 

“Guilty.”

“How say you to count 16?” 

“Guilty.”

“How say you to count 17?” 

“Guilty.”

“How say you to count 18?” 

“Guilty.”

“How say you to count 19?” 

“Guilty.”

“How say you to count 20?” 

“Guilty.” 

“How say you to count 21?” 

“Guilty.” 

“How say you to count 22?” 

“Guilty.”

“How say you to count 23?” 

“Guilty.”

“How say you to count 24?” 

“Guilty.”

“How say you to count 25?” 

“Guilty.”

“How say you to count 26?” 

“Guilty.”

“How say you to count 27?” 

“Guilty.”

“How say you to count 28?” 

“Guilty.”

“How say you to count 29?” 

“Guilty.”

“How say you to count 30?” 

“Guilty.”

“How say you to count 31?” 

“Guilty.” 

“How say you to count 32?”

“Guilty.”

“How say you to count 33?”

“Guilty.”

“How say you to count 34? “

“Guilty.” 

One of the key moments in the defense’s case revolved around questioning how much information witness Michael Cohen could have conveyed in a one-and-a-half-minute phone call. Could Cohen have told Trump’s bodyguard about a teenager who had been prank calling him, and then updated Trump on negotiations to buy an adult film star’s silence about an alleged sexual encounter?

The defense said, no way. A prosecutor went so far as to demonstrate during closing arguments a hypothetical phone call where that information is conveyed in under a minute.

It’s 5:08 p.m. The jurors had entered, walked past Trump, the judge, Bragg and others, crossing the court and sitting in their assigned seats. The foreperson had addressed the judge, and done a 34-count call and repeat. 

All in just three minutes.

They had convicted Donald John Trump. The 45th President of the United States was now a felon.

His body remained motionless, but the corners of his lips sank. 

Blanche asked for the jurors to be polled. Each confirmed they agreed with the verdict.

Merchan thanked the jurors, recounting that the trial began with jury selection on April 15.

“That’s a long time. That’s a long time you were away from your jobs, your families, your other responsibilities. But, not only that, you were engaged in a very stressful and difficult task,” Merchan said. 

“I want you to know that I really admire your dedication and your hard work. I observed you. As I said before, I observed you during the course of the trial, and I could see how involved you were, how engaged you were, how invested you were in this process. And you gave this matter the attention it deserved,” Merchan said. “I want to thank you for that.”

Lawyers on the prosecutors’ side of the room nodded in agreement. Trump seemed still to barely move.

All rose again as the jurors were excused. Again, none looked at Trump, and Trump looked at none.

Blanche immediately asked Merchan to set aside the verdict and enter a judgment of acquittal. The motion was denied.

The judge set a sentencing hearing for July 11. He then left.

Trump and his entourage stood to leave, his lips a parabola meeting the sides of his chin. He took a few steps, gently grasped his son’s hand for a moment. He turned and slowly walked toward the room’s back doors.

The trial was over. The prosecutors were packing their briefcases and bags.

From within the courtroom, the muffled but familiar voice of a perennial presidential candidate could be heard, back on the campaign trail, decrying his treatment.



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