The small crowd of reporters and photographers who gathered outside Edward Eagles's house expected a haggard, discouraged man, wearing the pallor of almost eight weeks' gruesome commuting from a Virginia hotel to U.S. District Court and of his job leading a deadlocked jury in the most divisive trial D.C. has seen in a decade.
What they got was a perky, salt-and-pepper soul who bounced from the marshal's sedan as if coming home from a camp in the Adirondacks: green rep tie, gray trousers, black wingtips, white shirt, tortoise-shell bifocals -- and in his hand, incongruous, his old Head tennis racket.
He is a jury foreman for the age of Bush. He even talked like George Bush: Was he glad he had been on the jury that tried Marion Barry? "Yes," he said. "Tough decisions. Tough experience. But good experience."
Edward P. Eagles, 54, has the mild, WASP-y look of the dedicated amateur ornithologist. But as soon as he opens his mouth, you just know he's a history teacher. You know just what kind of history teacher he is. Even if you didn't go to St. Albans School for Boys, where he has taught European history to seniors and juniors for roughly 15 years, when you listen to him, you can smell the erasers.
Right off the bat: Asked why the jury appeared not to have reached consensus on most of the counts against Mayor Barry, he turned the tables. "Among the group of you, do you have a consensus?"
"You have to realize," he said bluntly, "I'm not prepared to tell you what the internal votes were. You're just not going to hear it." But when asked whether the jury had made an agreement not to talk to reporters about their deliberations, he again became Delphic: "You will discover that in the course of a few hours, I think."
So went the end of the drama in the suburban dusk: one wiry man, about 5-foot-6, who had, as he put it, done "a civic duty"; and a looming, jostling circle of cameras and questioners, who were not going to tease out of him what he did not care to say.
Born in Kansas City, Mo., he has lived in the District for the past 40 years; in this very Silver Spring house, for 35. His father was a military man. Eagles, never married, lives still with his 92-year-old mother, and with a sister who identifies herself on the telephone as "Miss Eagles."
A graduate of St. Albans and Princeton, he goes to church every Sunday at the St. Albans Chapel, is a registered Democrat and votes regularly. During jury selection, he indicated that he reads two newspapers daily and watches the "MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour." He expressed some hesitation about the use of government sting operations, but when he was picked for the jury, reporters covering the trial marked him in their unofficial handicapping as a good find for the prosecution team.
If he developed strong opinions during the trial, however, he kept them on tight rein last night. The only time he seemed to speak with unconsidered wonder was when asked his views on the lawyers in the case. "I think every juror would say that we were privileged to see first-class attorneys," began his judicious answer. But then, unprompted, he continued, "And if you want my opinion, there is a master in Kenneth Mundy."
Otherwise, he reverted to his presidential sentence fragments.
In your mind, he was asked, was the mayor guilty of perjury?
"Not a question to answer. Read the results as they stand."
How hung was the jury, he was asked. Down the middle, or what?
"Not going to give you numbers. Not even going to try to give you a sense of numbers."
But he was pressed again and again on the numbers, in six or seven different ways. "That's a different panel," he scolded, "but you're still trying to get into that box."
The second man he brought to mind, almost uncannily, was Supreme Court nominee David Souter. He wears the same supremely polite air of challenge. With his clear green gaze, he has the same WASP-bachelor, Mr. Chips-ian equanimity. And he answers questions with the same sly skill.
One frustrated reporter finally informed him, almost petulantly, of the resemblance. "You have the same skill at evading questions that he does."
"But," he answered without surprise, gesturing around at the circus momentarily assembled on his lawn, "I think he will last longer in your eye."
He answered questions patiently for almost half an hour, from time to time gesturing with the racket still clutched in his hand. As the impromptu press conference wound down, he seemed to grow almost giddy. Dryly giddy. A reporter from Channel 4 importuned him: The station was at that moment doing a live special.
"I shall be watching," he said, waggishly.
Wouldn't he consider coming over to the studio, just a few blocks?
"Oh, no," he teased, "I can watch it much better from here."
At the end, his neighbors -- who had stood on their lawns drinking from plastic cups or walked their dogs amid the waiting reporters -- drew close in a circle and applauded softly. "Welcome home, Ted," said a few.
The pack, dwindling, shuffled a few feet closer to the threshold Eagles had not crossed in 53 days. A reporter wondered aloud if Eagles's training as a historian had helped him during the trial.
A small laugh. "I think historians ought to deal with the past, and I don't think they should come into the present," he said. "I think that just an average citizen comes into the present."