Jurors in the bribery and conspiracy trial of David E. Rivers and John B. Clyburn believed the two had done some "shady things," but were unconvinced that those things were criminal, the jury's foreman said yesterday.
"There was universal agreement that the law was somehow violated, but the prosecution failed to seal tight the evidence," the foreman, Thomas McLean, said in an interview.
Two other jurors, who asked not to be identified, disagreed last night with McLean, saying that they saw no evidence Rivers had done anything shady. One said that there "were more questions in the minds of jurors" about Clyburn, but that the government failed to prove either had broken the law.
McLean said that on most counts the jury initially believed the prosecution had proved its case. But as jurors scrutinized the evidence more carefully, he said, they were left with enough doubts to acquit both men.
For example, on the allegation that Clyburn bribed Department of Human Services official Gladys Baxley to win a contract for JMC Associates, a company owned by a Clyburn friend, jurors moved closer to acquittal each of the four times they listened to secretly recorded FBI tapes, McLean said.
At one point during the deliberations, McLean said he asked the other jurors, "Where's the smoking gun? Where's the bribery?"
Jurors also listened to a tape of Rivers and undercover FBI agent Leonard Carroll 11 times before determining Rivers was not agreeing to accept any money from Carroll in exchange for awarding him a contract, he said.
McLean, a program analyst for the Labor Department, said the prosecution's failure to show that any money changed hands had a big impact on the jury.
McLean also said that while Rivers's appearance on the witness stand did not sway jurors one way or another, Clyburn helped his own cause.
"He was eloquent and charming . . . . He was integrity personified," McLean said.
Staff Writers Saundra Torry and Sharon Epperson contributed to this report.