Trump trial judge faces new threats after false reports on jury instructions spread

Juan Merchan, the judge who oversaw the New York hush-money trial of Donald Trump, is facing fresh threats to his safety after false reports about jury instructions have circulated online.

Several rightwing pundits, including a Fox News anchor, have incorrectly reported that Merchan told jurors they did not need to be unanimous in finding Trump guilty in order to convict him, NBC News reported.

“Judge Merchan just told the jury that they do not need unanimity to convict,” Fox News anchor John Roberts posted to X on Wednesday. “4 could agree on one crime, 4 on a different one, and the other 4 on another. He said he would treat 4-4-4 as a unanimous verdict.”

Roberts’s post has been viewed almost 6m times.

Misinformation on Merchan’s instructions have drawn threats of violence, especially after Trump was found guilty of all 34 counts of falsifying business records in the hush-money trial on Thursday.

On Gab, a social media site popular among far-right users, one person said it was “time to find out where that judge lives and protest as the left calls it”, NBC reported.

Others in pro-Trump forums accused Merchan of treason, and suggested that he should be hanged for his participation in the trial, an echo of rioters at the January 6 attack on the US Capitol by extremist Trump supporters who called for Mike Pence, then the vice-president, to be hanged for refusing to block the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory.

In actuality, Merchan repeatedly told jurors that they had to reach a unanimous decision on whether Trump was guilty in order to convict him, but “need not be unanimous as to what those unlawful means were” in the perpetration of any crime.

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Prosecutors had alleged that Trump falsified reimbursement records to his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who paid adult film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 to bury her claim of having sex with Trump when he was married to Melania.

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Prosecutors argued that the hush-money cover-up was apart of a scheme to sway the 2016 election and an attempt to hide Trump’s violation of New York state election law, which bans the promotion of any person’s election to office through unlawful means.

Merchan told jurors that they did not have to be unanimous on what “unlawful means” Trump used, meaning jurors could choose which of the three laws Trump violated in his attempts to win the 2016 election.

In a Thursday interview, Roberts sought to clarify his comments and said that he never meant to suggest that jurors were told they did not need to unanimously convict Trump, the New York Times reported.


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