A gasp, a grimace and then 'guilty': The conviction of Donald Trump

Former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attends his criminal trial at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City, on May 30, 2024. [AFP]

"We the jury have a verdict." There was an audible gasp as Judge Juan Merchan read out the jury's handwritten note in his courtroom, where most expected him to signal the end of a second day of deliberations before sending everyone home.

Merchan's voice trembled as he re-read it, adding that the panel had requested a further 30 minutes to fill in the verdict paperwork.

Trump and his lawyer began talking animatedly, the chief of the courts police swept in, heads swiveled among the press and the public.

"Please let there be no outbursts, no reactions of any kind," said the judge before exiting the court himself.

For half an hour, noisy typing echoed off the gum-speckled wooden benches as reporters from across the globe sent updates.

Time passed at a crawl as the frigid air conditioning rattled, and officers' radios squawked as the jury, working in a nearby room, completed the forms that would seal Trump's fate.

A courtroom artist abandoned an earlier sketch and prepared instead to immortalize the verdict.

Lawyer Alina Habba, who has worked on Trump's other legal mires, walked in open-mouthed as she joined Trump's entourage, while his son Eric left the courtroom before the verdict, ashen-faced.

Finally, the courtroom sergeant announced that Trump's moment of reckoning had arrived: "jury entering."

Trump sat absolutely still

The 12 Manhattan residents filed into the packed courtroom, all avoiding Trump's gaze as they took the seats they have occupied for the last five weeks.

Merchan asked the foreperson, a broad man with a crewcut, if the jury had reached a verdict. "Yes, judge."

Speaking into a microphone, the foreman was asked how they had found the defendant on count one. "Guilty."

Then came the same rapid answer for the rest of the 33 counts. Trump sat absolutely still, not turning his head.

The judge thanked the jury for doing a "difficult and stressful task."

Trump's lawyer Todd Blanche immediately requested that an acquittal be recorded instead because star prosecution witness Michael Cohen, Trump's lawyer-turned-liability, had lied -- and that the court knew it.

Denying the defense's last-ditch effort, the judge tersely suggested that Blanche had "misspoken" if he was implying that he knew Cohen had committed perjury.

After setting sentencing for July 11, the judge excused Trump before catching himself and addressing the former president's bail situation.

Merchan confirmed Trump was at liberty, for now.

The convicted criminal stalked to the double doors at the back of the court, all eyes fixed on him, his face locked in a grimace before he composed himself for the waiting TV news cameras.

His team looked crestfallen. Susan Necheles, the veteran attorney who grilled porn star Stormy Daniels forensically for hours, was flushed and adjusted her glasses as she left courtroom 1530.

It was Daniels's peppery, hours-long testimony, along with the more than 20 other witnesses, that convinced the jury that Trump had falsified business records to cover up a pay-off to silence her over an alleged affair.

The prosecutors, who stayed behind, were scrupulous not to show their feelings, huddling in a circle as they waited to be allowed out as their boss, Alvin Bragg was hustled out by his minder, carrying a tatty file.

Outside the courtroom, Trump called the trial "rigged, disgraceful" and looked ahead to the election when he hopes to retake the White House.

"The real verdict is going to be November 5, by the people," he vowed.