20240526 donald trump
Former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attends the Libertarian Party's national convention in Washington, D.C. Image Credit: Reuters

New York: Jurors will soon deliver a verdict in the New York trial of Donald Trump. Guilty or innocent, their decision will shake the United States.

They must decide whether the former and perhaps future president is a criminal, just months before an election that could put him back in the White House.

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The panel of 12 ordinary New Yorkers will start deliberations this week and they must reach a unanimous verdict, or the case will be declared a mistrial.

Here are some of the pressing questions ahead:

What will jury be asked to decide?

Much attention has been paid to the salacious details that have emerged in the trial, particularly from porn star Stormy Daniels who alleged a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006.

But the case ultimately boils down to whether Trump knowingly covered up a $130,000 payment to Daniels for her silence in an effort to prevent her claims derailing his 2016 presidential battle against Hillary Clinton.

The jury must decide not only if Trump caused the records of payments to be falsified, but that he did so to cover up another crime - an undeclared campaign donation in this case - making it a felony.

Depending on the judge's instructions to the jurors, the 12 panelists could be asked to consider whether the alleged cover-up was a lesser misdemeanor if the threshold for a felony conviction is not surpassed - though this is seen as unlikely.

What are their options?

The jury would have to agree unanimously to find Trump either guilty or not guilty.

Trump's defense team has sought to sow doubts in the minds of one or two holdouts in the jury, which is all that would be needed to spare the property mogul a conviction, causing a mistrial.

The tortuous jury selection process at the start of the trial probed jurors' media consumption and feelings towards Trump in microscopic detail, revealing at least one follows the former president on his Truth Social platform.

Could Trump end up behind bars?

Yes, former president Trump could go to prison.

Judge Juan Merchan has come close to jailing the far-right populist for breaches of a gag order in place to protect witnesses, the jury and family members of some of those involved in the trial.

But experts say a fine, probation or community service are all far more likely options.

Would conviction impact Trump campaign?

A guilty verdict could hurt Trump's standing with "law and order conservatives" who could be put off by a criminal record. Religious, pro-family voters could also be deterred by the appearance that Trump cheated on his wife with a porn star.

An ABC News-Ipsos poll earlier this month found 16 percent of Trump supporters would reconsider their support for him if he were to be convicted of a felony.

Trump would almost certainly appeal the conviction, kicking the issue down the road until after the election.

Whatever happens, Trump can still run for president, be elected to office and once again take the presidential oath - even if he has been convicted or even jailed.