The moment 12 New Yorkers convicted Donald Trump: Reporter's Notebook

Trump appeared to have a mix of confusion and alarm on his face.

May 31, 2024, 9:48 AM

When the foreman rose from his seat to read the verdict Thursday in Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial, the courtroom became silent for a fleeting moment.

"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," the foreman spoke into a microphone.

Sitting forward in his seat -- and not appearing to acknowledge the jury just feet away -- the former president closed his eyes.

"How say you to count two?" the clerk asked.

"Guilty," the foreman said, looking directly at Judge Juan Merchan.

By the time the foreman got to the fourth count, the former president shook his head, while the muffled noise of cheers outside began to make their way into the courtroom.

From start to finish, the reading of the verdict took less than three minutes. The former president sat frozen in his seat for the entire time, not appearing to acknowledge the jury, even as each of the twelve New Yorkers individually affirmed their verdict.

PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. President Trump found guilty on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records
FILE PHOTO: Former US President Donald Trump after a jury found him guilty on all 34 counts in his criminal trial in New York State Supreme Court in New York, New York, USA, 30 May 2024. Trump is facing 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign. JUSTIN LANE/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
Justin Lane/via Reuters

While some jurors looked forward and others looked down, Trump looked away, locked in place as he faced forward.

When he stood up to leave the courtroom, he reached his right arm into the gallery, appearing to reach to the hand of his son Eric. He stood there at the front of the courtroom for a second, surveyed the room, and paced into the hallway.

Sitting a few feet away, I recall seeing Trump as red as I've ever seen him -- a mix of confusion and alarm on his face. An hour earlier he was joking and laughing with his lawyer, expecting that the judge was minutes away from dismissing the jury for the day. Now he was a convicted felon, about to make the very familiar walk out of the courtroom to address the world's media in the hallway.

For 23 days in the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse, much of this trial has become familiar to both Trump and the reporters who cover him.

For Trump, it began each day with his motorcade ride to the courthouse, followed by remarks to the media, then a prompt start to the proceedings at 9:30 a.m.. Every morning his lawyers introduced him as "President Trump," and every morning Judge Merchan greeted him back as just "Mr. Trump."

For the press, the days normally began around 6 a.m. on the line outside the courthouse, seating in the court by 8:30 a.m., an hour of waiting, then Trump's arrival. Rinse and repeat for a remarkable seven weeks.

Other than the weather -- having to wear a wool overcoat in the courtroom during jury selection then sweating through the marathon day of closings -- the days moved with the rhyme and rhythm of any other trial, with the main difference being the man seated at the front of the room was once the commander-in-chief.

Trump will be back at this courthouse one final time on July 11 when he faces sentencing. In the very same building, thousands of defendants before Trump have gone through the same process -- something I am reminded of as I write this note on a bench across from courthouse, where a Thomas Jefferson quote is engraved on its granite exterior.

"Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion," the inscription reads.

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