Donald Trump rape jury will have wide leeway to discuss E. Jean Carroll allegations

NEW YORK — The jury hearing an advice columnist’s claims that she was raped by Donald Trump may begin deliberations Tuesday and will have wide discretion to decide whether the charges against the former president are true.

Writer E. Jean Carroll, 79, testified that Trump raped her in 1996 in a dressing room of the upscale Bergdorf Goodman store in Manhattan after they had a chance meeting and shopping for lingerie together.

Trump, 76, has said he never raped Carroll and was never with her in the department store. He has been absent from the trial, although jurors have seen parts of his videotaped statement. He has accused Carroll of fabricating allegations to boost sales of her 2019 memoir.

The jury’s decision in the trial – which is a civil case and not a criminal case – may come down to who they believe more. Here’s more about how the jury will reach its verdict.

When do the deliberations start?

Closing arguments are tentatively scheduled for Monday, with attorneys for Carroll and Trump expected to complete their statements by the end of the day.

The judge is expected to read instructions about the law to the jury on Tuesday, with deliberations to begin immediately afterwards.

U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan gave Trump one last chance to request to testify, but the former president’s lawyers indicated he would likely decline that offer.

E. Jean Carroll testified that Trump raped her in 1996.

What will the jurors decide?

Kaplan instructed the nine jurors at the start of the trial that the central claim relates to “battery.”

He said that in a civil case, the battery could result from even the slightest unlawful touch from another person.

“The law does not draw a line between different degrees of violence. It completely forbids all illicit touching, from the least to the most violent that a reasonable person would find offensive. In other words, anything from a gentle but unwanted kiss on the cheek to stabbing someone with a knife could be a punishment for a civil case like this one,” Kaplan said.

The jurors will be asked to decide whether Carroll has proven Trump committed battery. If they decide that Trump has committed battery, they are expected to be asked to what extent. Afterward, Carroll’s attorney suggested asking jurors individually whether Carroll proved Trump guilty of coercion, sexual assault, and rape. The court has yet to make a decision on that proposal.

The lawsuit also includes an allegation by Carroll that Trump made defamatory remarks while denying her allegations.

Trump has denied all allegations.
Trump has denied all allegations.

For defamation, jurors will be asked whether Carroll had proven that Trump’s statement was defamatory and whether there was clear and convincing evidence that Trump made the statement maliciously.

What’s at stake?

If a jury agrees that Carroll has proven her claims of battery and libel, they can award compensatory and punitive damages. The amount is up to the jury.

There is no chance that Trump will go to jail as a result of a case.

Why is it a civil matter?

Carroll acknowledged during her testimony that she never went to the police.

Her decision not to press charges for so long rules out the possibility of prosecutors prosecuting Trump. Until recently, it would also have prevented Carroll from suing. But New York passed a law last year allowing victims of sexual assaults to temporarily sue their alleged abusers, regardless of how long ago the assault happened.

Because it’s a civil case, Trump didn’t have to go to court.

E. Jean Caroll, left, in court on May 4.
E. Jean Caroll, left, in court on May 4.

Unlike a criminal trial, where a prosecutor must prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, a civil jury decides based on “preponderance of the evidence,” meaning whether something is more likely than not.

To prove the defamation claim, Carroll must prove her allegations with clear and compelling evidence, which is a higher legal standard than the preponderance of evidence.

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