A federal jury began deliberating the fate of Michael K. Deaver yesterday after U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson cautioned its members that they must not be influenced by Deaver's former position or the titles of the high government officials who testified in the six-week perjury trial.
"You should not give either great or lesser credence to the testimony of a witness merely because he or she is or was a high-ranking government official," Jackson said in his 37-minute charge to the jury of nine Democrats, two Republicans and one unregistered Washington resident.
"In the same connection, I remind you that everyone is equal before the law," the judge said. "That means that former high government officials, like the defendant, are not to be held to any different standard of conduct than any other citizen. You are to treat the defendant in this case just like you would treat a defendant in any other case . . . . "
Deaver, President Reagan's former deputy chief of staff, is accused of lying to a congressional subcommittee and a federal grand jury.
The jury began considering the five-count indictment at 12:10 p.m. and was dismissed by Jackson at 6:10 p.m. Jackson instructed them to return to court Monday at 9:30 a.m. to resume deliberations.
Yesterday the jury requested a complete transcript of the testimony, four additional copies of the indictment and a dictionary. Initially it had requested only a copy of the testimony of retired Rear Adm. John M. Poindexter, one of the White House officials Deaver contacted in 1985 on behalf of the South Korean government, one of his lobbying clients. Poindexter, who was then national security adviser, testified that Deaver called him seeking information about whether a South Korean trade envoy was going to be allowed to see President Reagan.
Jackson announced that the jury had elected Barrington B. Bell, 59, a supply clerk for the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., as its foreman. Bell, a Democrat and a lifelong District resident, had professed little interest in national politics when he was selected for the jury.
"I never deal with the political part of D.C.," he said at the time. "I live in Anacostia."
Yesterday morning before the jury returned to the courtroom for its instructions, Jackson upbraided Deaver's chief defense lawyer, Herbert J. Miller Jr., for comments he made Thursday in his summation to the jury. Appearing the angriest he has been throughout the trial, the judge told Miller his comments praising Deaver's integrity "were contrary to the canons of ethics and I think you knew so."
Miller had told the jury that he "knew" Deaver and could vouch for his honesty, comments that the judge told the jury yesterday were "improper" and should be disregarded. Lawyers are not supposed to inject personal beliefs or statements about a client into their arguments.
Miller objected strongly to the warning and said he made the statement in response to an argument by special counsel Whitney North Seymour that implied that the defense attorney was "part and parcel" of Deaver's alleged "cover-up" of his lobbying activities. The judge rejected Miller's request for a special warning to the jury about Seymour's comments.
In his charge, the judge told members of the jury they could not consider Deaver's alleged alcoholism, which his lawyers had sought to make a centerpiece of their case.
" . . .There is simply no evidence in this case that the defendant's testimony before the House of Representatives subcommittee or the grand jury was affected in any way by alcoholism or alcohol," Jackson said. "Consequently, alcohol and alcoholism are no longer issues in this case and you are not to speculate as to what the evidence on that subject might have been in the course of your deliberations."