Edwards jury examines evidence

ablythe@newsobserver.comMay 25, 2012 

— Jurors in the John Edwards case are to return to the federal courthouse here Friday to continue their deliberations.

They broke from their proceedings on Thursday afternoon, giving no indication whether they were close or far from any decisions.

At lunchtime, they asked to see 20 more exhibits, a total of 61 since they got the case on May 18 after almost four weeks of testimony.

As the jury works, others interested in the case wait.

Edwards, 58, has passed time the past two days watching ACC baseball games at the stadium a few blocks away.

The large contingent of photographers, videographers, reporters and others in the media have set up tents and camp chairs just beyond the front steps of the courthouse. They call it “Camp Edwards.”

Judge Catherine Eagles told the eight men and four women on the jury Thursday afternoon that not only would she provide the 20 new exhibits they asked for, she also planned to make the hundreds of exhibits from the trial available to them in the deliberation room. Edwards has been at the courthouse each day since the deliberations began with his parents and his eldest daughter Cate. Some of the media have wondered whether he might have a lucky tie since he has sported the same green one each day this week.

The jury is weighing six charges against the former U.S. senator and two-time Democratic candidate for president. He is accused of violating campaign finance laws by conspiring to secretly obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars to hide his pregnant mistress during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Until Thursday, the jury’s requests for evidence focused on letters, notes and voicemail transcripts related to the testimony about the $725,000 in checks that Rachel “Bunny” Mellon issued to Bryan Huffman, an interior decorator in Monroe, who would endorse them and then send them to Andrew Young, the former political aide of Edwards who was a key witness for the prosecutors.

Young’s wife Cheri then endorsed the checks, using her maiden name, and deposited the money in private bank accounts that she and her husband used.

The defense has argued that the donations were gifts not subject to campaign finance laws.

On Thursday, the jury’s evidence list request focused on testimony related to Fred Baron, the billionaire lawyer from Texas, who provided flights, shopping trips, hotel stays, and rent for fancy villas and California mansions as the Youngs and Rielle Hunter, the videographer with whom Edwards had an affair and child, hopscotched across the country to hide from National Enquirer reporters.

The jury could be going down the verdict sheet provided by the judge, count by count.

The first two counts on the sheet were related to the accusations involving the checks from Mellon. The next two were about the Baron payment.

The jury, if going in order, would then deliberate about whether Edwards caused his 2008 presidential campaign committee to file an erroneous finance report, and then they would decide whether he conspired to secretly obtain the money.

Blythe: 919-836-4948

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