A federal jury in New York has begun deliberations in E. Jean Carroll’s civil battery and defamation lawsuit against former President Donald Trump.
The panel in a Manhattan federal courtroom is set to consider Carroll’s allegations that Trump raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman lingerie department dressing room in the spring of 1996, and then defamed her in a social media post last October. Trump has denied the allegations.
Here’s what the jury group of six men and three women, whose identities are anonymous to the lawyers and the public, will be considering:
Carroll filed the lawsuit last November under the “New York State Adult Survivors Act,” a state bill which opened a look-back window for sexual assault allegations like Carroll’s with long-expired statutes of limitation.
This is not a criminal trial. In a civil suit like Carroll’s, the jury must determine whether Carroll’s legal team proved that Trump committed battery against Carroll by a preponderance of the evidence.
To prove her defamation claim, the jury must find that Carroll’s legal team proved by the preponderance of the evidence that Trump knew it was false when he published the statement about Carroll last year and knowingly exposed her to public ridicule. They must also determine that she proved by clear and convincing evidence that the statement was false, and that Trump made the statement with actual malice.
Both the preponderance of the evidence standard and the clear and convincing evidence standard are not as high a standard as proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is used in criminal cases. Clear and convincing evidence is higher than preponderance of the evidence, which means more likely than not. Clear and convincing evidence leaves no substantial doubt in the juror’s mind and establishes that the proposition is highly probable.
The jury must be unanimous to reach a verdict but can reach a different verdict on each of the two claims – battery and defamation.
Lawyers make closing arguements in E. Jean Carroll civil rape trial against Trump
Carroll receiving a monetary award from this trial hinges on whether the jury unanimously believes her claims against Trump. The jury can award Carroll punitive damages, meant to punish Trump for the alleged sexual assault and defamation, and actual damages to compensate her for the harm the jury finds Trump caused her.
If the jury opts to consider awarding punitive damages against Trump, they’ll be instructed to consider factors like the severity of the act, any efforts to conceal the act and if he’s committed similar acts to decide whether his conduct was reprehensible. (Testimony of Jessica Leeds and Natasha Stoynoff, who both alleged they were assaulted by Trump, who denies the claim, can come into play here.)
The jury cannot, however, add a specific amount to the punitive damages award to punish Trump for harm he allegedly caused to others.
Carroll’s lawyers have not suggested an amount in damages for the jury to consider.
“For E. Jean Carroll this lawsuit is not about the money,” attorney Roberta Kaplan said during closing arguments on Monday. “It’s about getting her good name back.”
“What is the price for decades of living alone without companionship, for having no one to cook dinner with, no one to walk your dog with, no one to watch TV with, and for feeling for decades like you are dirty and unworthy,” Kaplan said. “I’m not going to put a number on that for you.”
Trump did not attend the trial. Like any defendant in a civil case, he was not required to appear in court for trial or any proceedings and has a right not to testify in his own defense.
Carroll’s attorneys told the jury at closings that they should take Trump’s absence from court as a sign of culpability.
“She showed up, she swore an oath, and told you what happened, and meanwhile, Donald Trump was nowhere to be found, didn’t come into the courtroom, didn’t take the witness stand. And you should draw the conclusion that that’s because he did it, because he raped Ms. Carroll and he didn’t want to testify about it,” Carroll attorney Michael Ferrara said Monday.
Trump’s attorney alternatively told jurors that Trump didn’t need to come to court to make the same denials he did in a deposition that was played during the trial.
“How do you prove a negative?” Joe Tacopina said. “Challenging the story is our defense. There are no witnesses for us to call. There’s no witness for us to call because he was not there, it didn’t happen.”
Trump asked about infamous ‘Access Hollywood’ tape in deposition. See his reaction
Trump’s video deposition taken last October and played for the jury during Carroll’s case was made public Friday.
Trump appears the most agitated on the video when he denies Carroll’s rape allegation. “She’s accusing me of rape, a woman that I have no idea who she is. It came out of the blue. She’s accusing me of rape – of raping her, the worst thing you can do, the worst charge. And you know it’s not true too. You’re a political operative also. You’re a disgrace. But she’s accusing me and so are you of rape, and it never took place,” Trump said on video, addressing Kaplan.
At one point during the deposition, Trump held a well-known black and white photo of himself, Carroll, her former husband news anchor John Johnson, and Trump’s then-wife Ivana. Trump recognized Johnson and recalled thinking he was good at his television job, but then mistook Carroll for his other ex-wife Marla Maples.
“That’s Marla, yeah. That’s my wife,” he said.
After the attorneys corrected him, Trump said the photo was blurry.
He acknowledged the photo suggests he met Carroll at least once but said it must have been very brief at an event and he does not remember or know her.
“I still don’t know this woman. I think she’s a whack job. I have no idea. I don’t know anything about this woman other than what I read in stories and what I hear. I know nothing about her,” the former president said.
At closings the jury again saw the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape and heard Trump describe how he aggressively moves on women without their consent because they let you “when you’re a star” and Trump’s response to the tape during his deposition.
Trump revealed his “playbook” for handling women on the tape when he thought no one was listening, Kaplan said. “Telling you in his very own words how he treats women.”
Tacopina responded by criticizing Trump’s language on the tape but said the crude nature still doesn’t make Carroll’s allegations true. The lawyer also called the tape that’s been public since before the 2016 presidential election a distraction.
“They are trying to take parts of Donald Trump you dislike or even hate and stretch that over a story that makes no sense whatsoever,” Tacopina said. “You could think Donald Trump is a rude and crude person and that her story makes no sense. Both of those could be true.”
Carroll testified for more than two full trial days during her case, recounting her story, how life has been since going public with her accusations and undergoing several hours of cross examination.
Two friends that Carroll testified she told soon after the alleged rape testified about their recollection of Carroll’s account in 1996. Journalist Lisa Birnbach testified to corroborate Carroll’s story that she called her minutes after she left the department store after she was allegedly raped.
Former local New York anchor Carol Martin also testified that Carroll, who had a show at the same cable news network at the time, also confided in her within days after the alleged incident. Birnbach and Martin, who were not initially named in Carroll’s book, publicly came forward in support of their friend soon after Carroll published her account in New York magazine.
Trump’s legal team has accused the two of conspiring with Carroll to fabricate this story to bring down Trump. All three have spoken publicly and in private messages shown to the jury about their hatred for the former president.
Leeds and Stoynoff, who allege Trump physically forced himself on them, also testified about their alleged altercations.
At closing Carroll’s attorney argued that allegations from Carroll, Leeds and Stoynoff reveal a pattern of Trump’s aggressive behavior.
In each woman’s testimony, they described how Trump first engaged them in a semipublic place, then allegedly grabbed them suddenly, then later denied the allegations and said “she is too ugly for anyone to assault,” Kaplan said.
“Three different women, decades apart, but one single pattern of behavior. What happened to Ms. Carroll is not unique in that respect. Trump’s physical attacks and verbal attacks are his standard operational procedure,” Kaplan said.
Trump has denied Leeds’ and Stoynoff’s allegations against him. Tacopina told the jurors Monday that their testimony was a distraction at trial because their claims are not before this jury and don’t affect Carroll’s allegations.
Tacopina in his closing argument Monday also accused Carroll of fabricating her rape allegations to sell her book.
“She has abused this system by bringing a false claim for, amongst other things, money, status, political reasons,” Tacopina said. “And in doing so, she has minimized real rape victims, you know, rape victims down by the water and around the world, to use someone’s words. She is exploiting their pain and suffering and is capitalizing on their stories, and we can’t let her profit to the tune of millions of dollars for her abuse of this process and her efforts to deceive you.”
Dr. Leslie Lebowitz, a clinical psychologist contracted by Carroll’s legal team, testified last week that she evaluated Carroll and found that she has no signs of thought or character disorders or mental illness, or PTSD but that she has been harmed by the alleged rape by Trump.
“She has suffered from painful intrusive memories for many years,” Lebowitz said. “She endured a diminishment in how she thought and felt about herself and perhaps most prominently she manifests very notable avoidance symptoms which have curtailed her romantic and intimate life and caused profound loss.”
Northwestern University Marketing Professor Ashlee Humphreys, another expert witness called by Carroll’s lawyers, testified that Trump’s statement at issue in this trial reached somewhere between 13.7 and 18 million impressions.
Humphreys and a team of researchers evaluated the post first published on Truth Social and how it spread across mediums like other social media platforms, websites and cable and network broadcast television.
In a series of calculations, Humphreys said about 21% of the people who viewed the statement in some capacity – about 3.7 to 5.6 million people – likely believed Trump.
The analysis did not consider the effects of previous statements Trump made about Carroll and on cross examination Humphreys acknowledged that she did not consider damage done to Trump by Carroll’s statements against him.
Still the marketing expert testified it would take up to $2.7 million to run an effective marketing campaign to repair Carroll’s reputation just from the damage of Trump’s October 12, 2022, comments denying her allegations.
This story has been updated with additional developments.