The U.S. attorney who prosecuted Louisiana Gov. Edwin W. Edwards said yesterday that he will seek to retry the flamboyant three-term Democrat, whose fraud and racketeering trial ended last month with jurors unable to reach a verdict.
U.S. Attorney John Volz of New Orleans said in an interview that he also will move to retry four of Edwards' codefendants. Volz said he consulted Assistant U.S. Attorney General Stephen S. Trott, chief of the Justice Department's criminal division, and that Trott was "very supportive."
"Under our system, a trial is not supposed to end with a divided jury," Volz said. "It's supposed to end with someone being guilty or not guilty."
Reviving the duel of wills between Edwards and Volz that emerged in the 13-week trial, the 58-year-old governor responded to a news conference Volz held in New Orleans by gathering reporters in Baton Rouge. Edwards charged that Volz, a Democrat-turned-Republican, was waging a political vendetta.
"I don't think there's any question that Mr. Volz has made a determination that he is going to spend his life, as long as the Justice Department will permit . . . , to continue to harrass Democratic public officials in Louisiana in an effort to tarnish our reputation," Edwards said.
Volz, anticipating Edwards would make such a charge, remarked: "If anybody looks at the evidence we presented and can come to the conclusion the prosecution was political, then he must be living on another planet."
Jurors said in interviews after the trial that they had deadlocked 11-to-1 for Edwards' acquittal on some of the 51 counts, and 10-to-2 on others.
The indictment charged that Edwards and seven others illegally made $10 million in a hospital development scheme that involved bribing state officials when he was out of office in 1982. U.S. District Judge Marcel Livaudais freed three defendants for lack of evidence.
Volz said he would "streamline" his case, conceding that its complexity may have obscured issues. " . . . Maybe we can do it better the second time," he said.
Defense lawyers have filed motions, scheduled for a Jan. 28 hearing, asking Livaudais to throw out the charges. Volz predicted they would fail, and said he hoped a retrial would last about half as long as the first one. He said it would not begin before the summer.
Acknowledging that the cost of the case has been high -- some sources put it between $2 million and $3 million for the government -- Volz said he saw no reason to turn back. "There shouldn't be a price tag on public integrity," he said. " . . . Sometimes it takes a little more to enforce the laws against certain people."