Trump's defense rest case in NY criminal trial without testimony from former president

 May 22, 2024

Ever since former President Donald Trump's criminal trial in New York began last month, there was ample speculation -- fueled in part by Trump himself -- about whether he would take the stand and testify in his own defense.

However, Trump's defense team rested its case on Tuesday without having called the former president to the stand to deliver testimony, according to Sky News.

Closing arguments from the prosecution and defense are expected to begin next week on May 28, after which the jury will be given instructions by the judge and sent to deliberate on a verdict, which could come as soon as the end of next week.

Defense rests without Trump's testimony

At the beginning of Tuesday's proceedings, former President Trump spoke briefly with reporters outside the courtroom and appeared to signal that his team of attorneys intended to rest their case without having him testify on the stand, per Sky News.

"We'll be resting pretty quickly," Trump said of his attorneys. "I won't be resting. I don't rest. I'd like to rest sometimes but I don't get to rest."

Trump's prediction was accurate, as his defense team announced less than an hour after the day's proceedings began that they had no more witnesses to call and would be resting their case, turning things back over to the prosecution to call any rebuttal witnesses, if necessary.

Trump's "evolving stance" on testifying

According to U.S. News & World Report, former President Trump had displayed an "evolving stance" on whether or not he would testify, as he first told reporters a few days before the trial began, "Yeah I would testify, absolutely. I’m testifying. I tell the truth. All I can do is tell the truth. And the truth is there’s no case -- they have no case."

A couple of weeks later, however, Trump said in an interview that he would only testify if his attorneys deemed it "necessary," then a few days later seemed to inaccurately suggest that he was "not allowed to testify" because of the gag order imposed on him -- though he later clarified that the gag order didn't prohibit his testimony but rather would prevent him from "talking about people and responding when they say things about me."

Then, just a few days after that, the former president seemed to reverse course once more and said in an interview that he "probably" would testify and "would like to" take the stand and deliver his own version of events.

Yet, just last week, The Washington Post reported that anonymous sources and the final preparations of Trump's defense team strongly indicated that the former president would most likely not take the stand in his own defense.

Not unusual for a defendant to not testify

The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that Trump's defense team rested their case after calling only two witnesses to testify, which actually isn't particularly unusual given that the burden is on the prosecution to prove their case and all the defense has to do is raise reasonable doubts, which can be more easily accomplished through cross-examination of the prosecution's witnesses.

It is also not unusual for a defendant to not take the stand, given that doing so opens them up to cross-examination by the prosecution and could result in testimony that backfires by inadvertently aiding the prosecution's arguments or undermining the defense team's narratives.

Richard Serafini, a former federal prosecutor turned criminal defense attorney in Florida, told the AP, "There was no guarantee that if Trump testified that he would stay on point and not go completely off script in ways that would be, at best, not helpful to the defense and, at worst, harmful to them."

Likewise, Sarah Krissoff, a former federal prosecutor turned white-collar defense attorney in New York, told the outlet of Trump's attorneys, "They’ve done the calculus and decided that they’ve made enough inroads. They feel they’ve done the damage to the prosecution’s case and they’re going to be able to stand up next week and argue that there isn’t enough to convict the former president."

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