On May 30, 2024—a day that will become significant in American history—a 12-person jury unanimously convicted former President Donald J. Trump of all 34 felony counts brought against him by a New York grand jury in March 2023.


That grand jury indictment—the first ever against any president of the United States—became known as the “Stormy Daniels Hush Money Case.” The tawdry details surrounding the case have been well documented in the public record and need no further description here.


What begs discussion is the value the rule of law gives to a democratic form of government—a rule that begins with the right to a jury trial. Three years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in December 1620, they codified a body of English common law. One of those laws demanded that “all criminal facts, and also matters of trespass and debts betweene [sic] man and man should be tried by the verdict of twelve honest men to be impaneled [sic] by authority in forme [sic] of a jury upon their oath.”


Thus, the right to a jury trial was born in America.


The first person tried by a jury was a colonist named John Billington, who was tried and convicted of murder. He was executed following that jury verdict. The Governor of the Colony, John Bradford, said the jury took “all possible pains in the trial” to find Billington guilty of “wilful murder” based on “plain and notorious evidence.”


Put simply, Billington was charged with a crime, tried by a jury of twelve fellow colonists, and convicted based on the evidence presented during his trial.


Four hundred years later, Donald J. Trump was charged with 34 felony crimes, tried by a jury of twelve of his fellow American citizens, and convicted based on the evidence presented during his trial. The former president, represented by a battery of highly paid attorneys, enjoyed far more procedural safeguards and evidentiary protections than Billington did four hundred years ago.


Yet Trump, upon exiting the courthouse, told the American public in a rambling, nearly incoherent statement that the trial had been “rigged.” His post-trial statement echoed his thousands of previous statements to the public, and to his supporters in particular, that the Stormy Daniels Hush Money Case was a “political conspiracy” orchestrated by President Joe Biden and other evil forces in the “Deep State” promoted by QAnon conspiracy theorists. After his humiliating conviction, Trump commented, “This was a disgrace, this was a rigged trial by a conflicted judge who was corrupt…”


Assuming arguendo that the trial judge and the entire Manhattan District Attorney’s Office were part of a global conspiratorial cabal out to “get Donald Trump,” it defies adult logic and the common sense of a third grader to believe that this political cabal somehow managed to get all twelve jurors—all of whom were vetted by Trump’s attorneys for jury duty—to “rig the case” against the former president.


Whatever else may be said about the trial and conviction of Donald J. Trump, the jury verdict was not “rigged.” Twelve honest, decent, law-abiding citizens—at great personal sacrifice and risk to their own safety—listened to the evidence from the prosecution and the defense and reached a unanimous verdict of guilt.


The former president and his supporters now say that American voters will decide the “real verdict” in November in the 2024 presidential election.


That is not correct.


The only thing the American voter will decide in November is whether they want a convicted felon as their president. That is the only verdict American voters will reach in November.


An American jury has spoken.


Former President Donald J. Trump is a convicted felon. History will record him as a “convicted felon and former President.”


What significance anyone places on that reality is their prerogative; that is how a true Democracy works—the very Democracy that gave the country the Trump verdict.


Trump supporters, including his elected sycophants, are now joining the Trumpian chorus and calling for riots and violent retribution. Some have called for attacks on the judge and jurors.  


“After Thursday’s verdict, many of his supporters also said that his conviction was proof that the American political system was broken and that only violent action could save the country.


‘1,000,000 men (armed) need to go to Washington and hang everyone. That’s the only solution,” said one poster on Patriots.win. Another added: “Trump should already know he has an army willing to fight and die for him if he says the words… I’ll take up arms if he asks.”


This is precisely what hate-based fear-mongering does to a democracy. We are now seeing, in real-time, the “illusory truth effect” in which the lies and conspiracy theories, repeated over and over again by Trump and his supporters, have taken on the illusion of truth.


As criminal defense lawyers, we have had our fair share of disagreement and dissatisfaction about jury verdicts. But, as flawed as our judicial system is, we have never stooped to personal attacks on judges or jurors, especially attacks intended to engender violence against people performing their civic duty.  While it needs real reform, the jury trial remains the last method of resolving our differences without violence.  Trump has had every advantage this country can offer, including a limitless budget for legal fees.  He has every right to appeal and test his theories to the highest courts, and he should do so.


We are indeed in a dangerous time in the American democratic experiment. Will the rule of law and Democracy prevail, or will we slide into an Orwellian world of authoritarian double-speak?