Inquiry on McDougal Motive
Friday, April 9, 1999; Page A02
LITTLE ROCK, April 8 Jurors deliberating Susan McDougal's fate asked today whether they can consider an "innocent reason" for her refusal to testify in the Whitewater investigation of President Clinton.
In a note to the judge, jurors asked a question that goes to the heart of McDougal's defense: She says she feared independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr would charge her with perjury unless she falsely implicated the president and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in wrongdoing.
U.S. District Judge George Howard Jr. responded to the jurors' question by letting them sort out the issue for themselves, referring the panel back to the instructions he read to them earlier in the day. The jurors adjourned for the day without reaching a verdict.
Before deliberations began today, Howard instructed the jury that McDougal would be guilty of criminal contempt if she "willfully" violated a court order to testify and did not act "by accident, mistake or other innocent reason."
But Howard also said McDougal's defense that Starr was trying to get her to lie could be applied only to the obstruction of justice charge against her, not to the two contempt charges.
© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press