GREENSBORO — The jury deliberating the fate of John Edwards on Friday asked for several exhibits related to the testimony about Rachel Bunny Mellon, the Virginia heiress who issued $725,000 in checks that were funneled to a political aide for the former presidential candidate.
Though the first two indictments on the jury verdict sheet are related to the payments by Mellon, it is impossible to know precisely why the eight men and four women asked to see what they did at midday.
The jury began its deliberations at 10 a.m. and broke for the weekend at 3:30 p.m. Jurors are to resume deliberations Monday in a case that has drawn sweeping interest from a contingent of national and international media.
Judge Catherine Eagles read 35 pages of instructions to the jury late Thursday afternoon. One juror asked the judge for the definition of influencing the election.
Prosecutors contend Edwards, 58, conspired to secretly obtain more than $900,000 from Mellon and billionaire Texas lawyer Fred Baron to hide his pregnant mistress from the media and preserve and protect his family-man image in the 2008 presidential campaign.
The money, prosecutors contend, was used to influence the election by keeping Edwards infidelity a secret and allowing him to continue to seek the Democratic presidential nomination.
Edwards ultimately withdrew from the race in late January 2008.
Defense attorneys argue that payments from Mellon and Baron were gifts, on which taxes were paid, that went to others, not Edwards, to help a friend, and not to influence the campaign.
The jury is diverse, with a range of occupations and races.
The judge separated the jury of 12 from the four alternates first thing in the morning, but told the man and three women who were not involved in the deliberations that she would not release them immediately from their service.
The jury must weigh six counts, and at the crux of their deliberations is whether they think the payments from Mellon and Baron, money that never went directly into the accounts of Edwards or the presidential campaign, were contributions subject to public reporting and federal limits.