John Edwards jury wants second look at all the evidence

They want it all. Every private jet receipt, every handwritten note, every voice-mail transcript.

   No scrap of evidence introduced in the four weeks of John Edwards’s corruption trial is too trivial for a second look by the punctilious jury that entered its fifth day of deliberations Thursday in a downtown federal courthouse in this Piedmont region city. During its first four days of deliberations, the jury sent notes to the judge requesting 23 prosecution exhibits, most dealing with the $700,000 that Virginia heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon funneled to Edwards’s cohorts while he was running for president and later angling for a vice presidential nod in 2008. But on Thursday, the jury said it wanted more — much more. 

   Jurors asked for 20 exhibits: one from the defense and 19 more from the prosecution. And when Judge Catherine Eagles — a relatively new federal jurist with less than two years on the Middle District bench after a long state court career — asked whether the jurors wanted all the exhibits introduced in the case, there was little doubt about the reaction. “Sounds like a great idea,” said the jury foreman, a middle-aged financial consultant.

   The jury seems to have moved on from its deliberations about Mellon and turned its attention to another Edwards benefactor, the wealthy Texas trial lawyer Fred Baron. One of the documents jurors asked for Thursday was a handwritten note from Baron to Edwards’s aide, Andrew Young, which reads, “Old Chinese saying, use cash not credit cards.” 

   Young testified that Baron paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for private jets, resorts, house rentals and other expenses to keep Edwards’s mistress, Rielle Hunter, happy and quiet. Prosecutors allege that the payments were made to avert a scandal that would have sunk Edwards’s presidential campaign, and therefore should have been reported as contributions to the Federal Election Commission.

   Jurors also asked for a tape of an August 2008 interview on ABC’s “Nightline” in which Edwards lied by saying he was not the father of Hunter’s child. Young had publicly claimed paternity of the child, but testified he was only doing so to protect his boss. Jurors also requested a defense exhibit about payments made from Baron to a North Carolina construction company that built Young’s luxury home. Defense attorneys have argued that Young pocketed much of the money from Baron and Mellon.

   Jurors, who are giving all appearances that they are settling in for a long deliberation, dressed more casually than ever on Thursday. Half of the 12 jurors wore jeans. But Edwards, as usual, wore a dark suit and a green tie, the same color tie he’s worn throughout the week. As he entered the courtroom on Thursday, a reporter asked him if it was his lucky tie.

   Edwards flashed that famous smile of his and answered with the faintest hint of a Southern drawl: “I’m not sayin’.”

Manuel Roig-Franzia is a writer in The Washington Post’s Style section. His long-form articles span a broad range of subjects, including politics, power and the culture of Washington, as well as profiling major political figures and authors.
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