A federal jury ordered Donald Trump to pay E. Jean Carroll $83.3 million in damages on Friday.
During the defamation trial, Trump and his attorney appeared to frequently frustrate the presiding judge.
Two legal experts said Trump’s bad manners in court likely played a role in the jury’s decision.
A federal jury saddled former President Donald Trump with a hefty $83.3 million decision in E. Jean Carroll’s defamation trial against him on Friday, closing the curtain on a raucous week-and-a-half of acrimonious legal proceedings.
The jury deliberated for under three hours before delivering their verdict, which included $18.8 million in compensatory damages and $65 million in punitive damages for Carroll.
The significant sum comes after Trump displayed a brazen lack of legal decorum throughout the duration of the trial, repeatedly railing against Carroll online and going head-to-head with US District Judge Lewis Kaplan during his much-anticipated but ultimately brief testimony.
Throughout the trial, Trump’s attorney, Alina Habba, also repeatedly piqued Kaplan’s ire. The judge impatiently scolded her over basic law 14 times in just one day and even threatened to send her to jail for interrupting on Friday.
Trump and his legal team’s behavior made what was already a difficult defense nearly impossible for the former president, John Jones, a former federal judge in Pennsylvania, told Business Insider.
“When lawyers and litigants run roughshod over a judge or disregard his admonitions, juries don’t like that,” said Jones, who is now the president of Dickinson College.
Juries tend to grow attached to their presiding trial judge, Jones said, adding that they often come to see the judge as a protector of sorts. Thus, Trump and Habba’s apparent disregard for Kaplan during the trial likely didn’t go unnoticed by the jury.
“These are regular people who play by the rules,” Chris Mattei, a defamation lawyer who won a $1.5 billion jury verdict in the Alex Jones defamation trial, said of the jury.
“And then they see some guy come into court who basically throws up his middle finger at the law?” Mattei added. “No, average people don’t want that.”
Trump shocked the courtroom on Friday when he abruptly walked out of the courtroom as Carroll’s attorney was arguing that he didn’t respect the jury, in a final display of unabashedness that likely left a bad final impression on the jury, Jones said.
“That’s a really disrespectful thing to do,” Jones added. “It looks arrogant and unseemly.”
Trump lost a separate civil trial against Carroll last year when a jury in the same courtroom found him liable for sexually abusing her in the mid-1990s and agreed that the former president defamed Carroll by calling her a liar.
The more recent civil trial dealt with a 2019 lawsuit over two comments Trump made denying Carroll’s allegations. The $83.3 million in damages are on top of $5 million in damages Carroll won during the May 2023 trial.
Because the jury in the 2023 civil already determined Trump was liable for sexually assaulting and defaming Carroll, all that was being decided in this month’s trial was the amount of damages.
Friday’s verdict signals the jury was serious about holding Trump accountable in the case, legal experts said.
“You can’t have somebody who just flaunts the law basically be given a pass,” Mattei said. “That’s not how our system works.”
Legal experts said the $83.3 million total in damages will be a significant hit to the former president’s finances — and Trump is almost certainly on the hook to pay all or most of it.
Immediately following the verdict, Habba railed against the decision and said Trump plans to appeal the decision.
Trump, meanwhile, took to Truth Social.
“Absolutely ridiculous! I fully disagree with both verdicts, and will be appealing this whole Biden Directed Witch Hunt focused on me and the Republican Party,” Trump wrote on the social media platform.
But both Jones and Mattei said a reversal is unlikely because the jury’s decision seems to be legally strong.
“This is a verdict we will see,” Mattei said.
During his deposition for the Carroll case, Trump boldly claimed his brand value was worth “billions and billions of dollars.” The former president’s words may come back to bite him now that he owes Carroll millions because Trump will have a difficult time proving insolvency, Jones said.
“In all likelihood, he has the money to pay,” Mattei said. “That’s also really significant because the public needs to see that verdicts are enforceable in order to have confidence in the legal system.”
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