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Judge Denies Starr Team's Request to Interview McDougal Jurors


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  • From News Services
    Thursday, April 29, 1999; Page A14

    LITTLE ROCK, April 28—A federal judge ruled today that Whitewater prosecutors cannot interview jurors who refused to convict Susan McDougal, President Clinton's Whitewater business partner, in her recent criminal trial.

    U.S. District Judge George Howard Jr. concluded that the office of independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr had not shown "good cause" for the court to make an exception to a policy of "not invading the province of the jury."

    Prosecutors had said interviewing jurors would be important to their decision about whether to seek a retrial of McDougal on two counts that deadlocked the jury. "We are evaluating our next step," Starr spokeswoman Elizabeth Ray said.

    Howard wrote that "permitting the unbridled interviewing of jurors could easily lead to their harassment, to the exploitation of their thought processes . . . and to diminished confidence in jury verdicts as well as unbalanced trial results."

    Jurors have talked to the news media since the verdict this month. Donald Thomas, the jury foreman, said he was put off by the "arrogance" of Starr's prosecutors and felt the testimony of Starr's deputy, W. Hickman Ewing Jr., was evasive.

    The jury acquitted McDougal on an obstruction of justice charge but deadlocked on two counts of criminal contempt for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating issues stemming from the failed Whitewater real estate venture.

    McDougal's lawyer, Mark Geragos, at first said he would welcome post-trial interviews with jurors but changed his mind and objected, saying Arkansans had been bothered enough by Starr's investigation.

    Geragos said federal rules do not allow an inquiry into the "mental processes" of jurors.

    In another case involving the president, U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright granted lawyers for Paula Jones more time to calculate their bill for additional legal fees due to them under a contempt-of-court ruling against Clinton.

    Wright found Clinton in contempt on April 12 for giving "false, misleading and evasive answers" in his Jan. 17, 1998, sworn testimony in the Jones sexual harassment lawsuit against him.

    The ruling ordered Clinton to pay fees including the portion of legal costs incurred by Jones for extra work by her lawyers from the Dallas firm of Rader, Campbell, Fisher & Pyke after the president denied in a deposition having had a sexual relationship with Monica S. Lewinsky.

    Jones's lawyers won a four-day extension of their May 3 deadline to submit a detailed list of fees and expenses that will be the basis for her ruling on how much Clinton owes the Jones team. Clinton already has paid Jones and her lawyers $850,000 to settle her lawsuit.

    Clinton's denial under oath in the Jones case that he had engaged in a sexual relationship with former White House intern Lewinsky led to his impeachment by the House on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. He was acquitted by the Senate in February.

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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