There are several takeaways after today’s stunning verdict in the E. Jean Carroll defamation suit in which a Manhattan federal jury awarded her $83.3 million, including the legal, the political, and the personal.
To set the stage for this in context of the other cases Trump is facing, his lawyer argued today to nullify a jury’s finding, and the judge slapped them down. That argument is one to not to follow the law. That failed today.
If that argument of jury nullification had been successful, it would have set the stage to undermine the U.S. court system, which would be beneficial for someone facing 91 felony counts (91 charges across four criminal cases. They include 44 federal charges and 47 state charges, all of them felonies.) and a separate fraud case.
There’s no knowing if a criminal court will come to the same conclusion or uphold the rule the law, but this was a good indication that our legal institution has held against the ongoing assault of Donald Trump behaving as if he is above the law. (The unchecked corruption of the U.S. Supreme Court notwithstanding.)
Today’s jury came back with $18.3 million in compensatory damages and $65 million in punitive, for a total of $83.3 million for defamation Trump committed while president, in 2019.
The $65 million in punitive damages is meant to punish and deter. The amount can be lowered by the trial court, but given Trump’s stated net worth, he might find himself in a tough position making that argument. We don’t actually know how much money Trump has. This high amount signals that the jury thinks the defendant’s conduct was outrageous, and this is a way to deter future conduct.
The jury penalized Trump in a way that shows he is perhaps finally facing accountability in the courts. Both today’s case and the upcoming fraud case are civil cases; the former President has yet to be tested in a criminal court.
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In the Republican primary, this means nothing – they’ve already decided this is fake. But in the general election, this is not great for Republicans. It will hurt more in the fall than right now, especially given that we are in a post-Roe environment in which women have shown tremendous political power in recent elections.
Trump has already attacked the decision on social media, and he will continue to attack the media and blame President Joe Biden for the decision of a jury, which is unlikely to move many voters other than his core supporters. So when you hear the argument that this is going to be good for Trump politically, yes it will be in the Republican primary but it will not help him in the general election and is likely to hurt in a way that the Access Hollywood tape didn’t in 2016.
This was an important victory for survivors of sexual assault. In the U.S., women have watched as Donald Trump was elected after being caught on tape bragging about grabbing women and getting away with it, so there’s been an ongoing sense that there justice escapes the powerful like Mr. Trump. It’s important for victims and survivors to hear that no one is above the law and that they matter, and their voices are important.
We all owe a debt of gratitude to E. Jean Carroll for having the fortitude to persevere through what had to have been a nightmare of threats, intimidation and more as well as ongoing defamation and attacks on her character. The E. Jean Carroll jury gave U.S. democracy a strong argument to shut down the attempt by Trump and his lawyers to establish that the rule of law shouldn’t apply to him and further that jury decisions should be nullified when one doesn’t like them. They also gave a very important $83.3 million message of justice for victims and survivors of sexual assault.
What do think about the E. Jean Carroll verdict? Let us know by leaving a comment below.