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Monday, June 3rd, 2024
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


I wrote in my column over a month ago that no one should be surprised over former president Donald Trump’s conviction in a New York Court last week. As we say in the South, Trump was a gone pecan from the get-go. There are a number of reasons why. Some emanated from his prejudicial surroundings in New York City. But other causes were of his own making.

If you had to pick the worst place for Trump to be tried in America, New York City would be it. The prosecution certainly had the home-court advantage. It was like LSU having to go to Tuscaloosa to play Alabama. Voters in New York City are overwhelmingly Democratic, and numerous polls have shown that Trump is very unpopular there. The judge was a contributor to Democratic causes, and his daughter was a major consultant and fundraiser for Democratic candidates. The former president’s prosecutor had run on a platform of “getting Trump.” The playing field could not have been more uneven.

But Trump and his legal team certainly did not help themselves by the former president’s antics, and by the strategy put forth as a defense. Trump’s running abuse of the system played well to his voters across America, but hurt him with the voters who count, the New York jury. Whenever the judge wanted to admonish Trump and fine him for ignoring the court’s numerous gag orders, he had the jury removed from the courtroom. He did the same when dressing down witnesses for Trump on a number of occasions. But then the jurors went home for the evening, watched the evening news, and read the daily newspapers. They were able to see all the venom thrown at Trump and his team by the judge outside the presence of the jury.

Trump did himself no favors by either looking bored or shutting his eyes, giving the
impression that he was sleeping. It was a sign to the jury that the former president was not taking the case seriously. Then he would go outside the courthouse and blast the entire proceedings, all played on the nightly news as jurors watched from their homes . My experience with juries, and I’ve tried a number of cases as practicing lawyer in my day, is that jurors are not impressed with verbose and cocky defendants who don’t seem to be taking their fate seriously. Trump came across as just such a defendant.

The case was not supposed to be about porn star Stormy Daniels. It should have been focused on money and failure to report under the federal campaign laws. No one observing the trial believed that Trump did not have a tryst with Stormy. And her testimony came across as quite believable to jurors. Trump’s team made a big mistake but not just admitting there was an affair, but it had nothing to do with any violation of state or federal laws. The jury would have been much more willing to accept such an explanation.

Then there was the incoherent rationalizations and responses from Trump’s defense team. There was no alternative, no believable answer as to why the charges were wrong. Trump’s lawyers seemed to do a little more than splatter the prosecution witnesses, particularly Michael Cohen, with responses that he and other witnesses were liars. Cohen was a liar, and he was the only witness to confirm that Trump was directing the entire hush money episode.

Much of the alleged illegal activity took place after Trump became president. He could have offered the jury a believable response that he was extremely busy being president, and that the decisions of taxes, any nondisclosure agreement, and funds paid to Stormy Daniels were left up to Cohn and Trump’s financial chief Allan Weisselberg. It would have given the jury an alternative explanation of what took place, and why Trump knew so little. But the Trump team never offered a coherent alternative, and so the jury had little choice but look to the facts offered by the prosecutors.

All this is not to say that Trump will stay a convicted felon in New York. I could write several columns on defects allowed by the judge in the trial, and what grounds there are for appeal.

And maybe the conviction will actually help Trump politically. He apparently raised over $29 million in the 10 hours after his trial concluded. He has an appeal to pursue in his New York case, and three additional criminal cases yet to be tried. His legal team needs to reevaluate their tactics in the courtroom. Their strategy proved to be a failure in Trump’s first trial this past week.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.

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