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Given all that former President Donald Trump has been accused of, just how will state and federal prosecutors convince juries that he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt?

That question is partially explained by Harvard criminal law professor Ronald Sullivan.

A key element in both federal indictments on his handling of classified documents and his role in the Jan. 6 violent attack on the U.S. Capitol is Trump’s state of mind. While no one can say for sure what’s inside another’s mind, there are some clues, and those include the actions a suspect took before and after an alleged crime. This legal tool is known as consciousness of guilt.

“As the country contemplates these indictments,” Sullivan writes, “it’s important to remember that federal prosecutors will dissect everything Trump did, said or heard to argue that his behavior indicates that he intended to commit the crimes for which he is charged.”

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Howard Manly

Race + Equity Editor

Former President Donald Trump makes his way to the stage during a rally in Erie, Pa., on July 29, 2023. Dustin Franz for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Trump indictment: Here’s how prosecutors will try to prove he knowingly lied and intended to break the law

Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., Harvard University

A key element in proving Trump’s guilt or innocence is determining the former president’s state of mind and whether he has shown a consciousness of guilt before and after the alleged crimes.

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