When will the Trump trial reach a verdict? 'Anybody's guess' once jury deliberation begins

Donald Trump's hush money trial is nearing its end. The prosecution and defense have rested their cases and closing arguments are scheduled to start Tuesday, May 28.

The former president has appeared nearly daily in the Manhattan courthouse over the past five weeks as prosecutors built a case to argue he falsified business records in 34 different instances. Throughout 19 witnesses and dozens of pieces of evidence, they tried to prove Trump disguised reimbursements to former aide Michael Cohen, who they accuse of violating campaign finance laws when he paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in 2016 to stay quiet about a sexual encounter that allegedly happened a decade earlier.

Though Trump has been charged in four different criminal cases, this case is likely the only one to reach a trial ahead of the 2024 general election. Now that both sides have rested their cases, 12 jurors will decide if the presumptive Republican nominee will also be a convicted felon. Experts say we could have that decision by the end of next week.

Here is what we know about the timeline for the remainder of the trial:

Trump trial: Historic Trump trial heading to jury after prosecutors, defense lawyers rest

Defense and prosecutors to recap case ahead of jury deliberation

Jurors were excused Tuesday, but both the prosecution and the defense must return in the afternoon to argue over the instructions Judge Juan Merchan will provide to the jury ahead of their deliberations.

Those instructions could be crucial to the outcome of the case. Merchan will tell the jury what the applicable law in the case is. He will then task them with not just deciding what happened factually in the case – for example, whether former President Donald Trump authorized Michael Cohen to pay porn star Stormy Daniels hush money – but also determining whether Trump's actions violated the law.

Merchan told jurors they would hear closing arguments Tuesday, May 28, and seemed to put plans in place for them to stay late in order to get through both sides. If jurors are able to come in the following next day, typically an off day for this court, they could start deliberating then.

The 12 jurors must come to a unanimous decision to convict or acquit Trump.

How long can the jury take to deliberate?

There is no limit for how long a jury can take to deliberate, says Diana Florence, a former Manhattan prosecutor.

"But, obviously, that doesn't mean that ... the world will be ending and they'll still be deliberating," Florence said.

If the group cannot come to a unanimous decision, it is considered a "hung jury" and the judge must declare a mistrial. "You know it when you see it when it comes to a hung jury," she said.

But any deliberation taking at least three days would be considered a long time, according to Kevin J. O’Brien, a New York-based trial lawyer.

If the jury takes a long time reviewing and discussing the evidence, it could indicate good news for the prosecution, he said.

"Defense verdicts tend to be in quickly, because people have their views, and one or more jurors are not going to budge. ... They don't go through the labor of weighing all the evidence," O’Brien said. "But if they're out three or four days, that tends to suggest they're really looking at the evidence. And of course, the evidence favors the prosecution."

When will there be a verdict in the Trump trial?

If jury begins deliberation by May 30, which the schedule indicates they could, Florence said we could have a verdict by the end of next week.

"Could it take longer? Sure," she said. "That's where it becomes anybody's guess and it's reading tea leaves."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: When will the Trump trial end? After closing arguments, jury deliberation