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Quick verdict not likely as jury weighs Edwards’ fate

Quick verdict not likely as jury weighs Edwards’ fate

access_time May 18, 2012 chat_bubble_outline 0 comments
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Jurors retired to deliberate the fate of former presidential candidate John Edwards. NBC’s Lisa Myers reports from Greensboro, N.C.

By Stacey Klein, NBC News, and M. Alex Johnson,

Updated at 3:49 p.m. ET: A jury of eight men and four women began deliberations Friday in the trial of former Sen. John Edwards and retired for the weekend after signaling that it could be some time before they reach a verdict.

Chris Vaughn of NBC station WXII in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Ben Thompson of NBC station WCNC in Charlotte, N.C., contributed to this report by Stacey Klein of NBC News and M. Alex Johnson of Follow M. Alex Johnson on Twitter and Facebook.

The racially diverse jury, which includes three members with finance-related jobs, is considering whether Edwards, the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee, “knowingly and willfully” violated a 1971 campaign finance law by orchestrating a scheme in which two wealthy donors provided almost $1 million to hide his pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter, while he sought the Democratic nomination for president in 2008.

Jurors got the case late Thursday afternoon and were sent home for the weekend Friday afternoon. Deliberations were scheduled to resume Monday at 9:30 a.m. ET in U.S. District Court in Greensboro, N.C.

Although hundreds of journalists from across the nation filled the square outside the courthouse and microphones were set up, Edwards didn’t stop to talk to reporters as he returned to court for the end of the day’s proceedings.

A quick verdict “would be surprising considering the complexity of the case,” said Hampton Dellinger, a legal analyst for NBC News and “I think a rush to judgment is not what they want.”

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Shortly after they retired to the jury room, the jurors indicated that they intended to take their time reviewing the four weeks of evidence. They asked U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles for a list of all exhibits published by the defense and the prosecution — which runs to hundreds of items — and eight specific exhibits.

The also requested “other notes from Bunny Mellon” — a reference to evidence related to nearly $750,000 contributed by billionaire Edwards supporter Rachel “Bunny” Mellon.

Mellon, who is 101 years old, didn’t testify during the trial, but her attorney and financial adviser, Alex Forger, offered extensive testimony that Mellon knew that her donations were intended to fund the “Hunter problem” and weren’t given as campaign contributions.

Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards has faced public and private challenges throughout his life and career.

The jurors also requested a transcript of Forger’s testimony, but Eagles refused to provide it. She said that if they still need it by the middle of next week, she would reconsider that ruling.

The jury comprises eight men and four women. Six of them are white, five are African-American and one is Hispanic.

Dellinger said the makeup probably suited Edwards. The majority of the jurors are from lower-middle and middle-class backgrounds — Edwards’ main constituency when he served as a U.S. senator from North Carolina.

And he probably “wanted a jury with as many men as possible who might sympathize with his desire to keep the affair quiet from his wife,” Dellinger said.

Edwards faces as long as 30 years in federal prison and fines up to $1.5 million if he is convicted on all counts.

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