Libby Judge Responds to Jury's Questions

The Judge in the Scooter Libby trial today provided this written response (pdf)to the questions the jury asked Friday about reasonable doubt and Matthew Cooper and the obstruction of justice charge.

The first question read:

We would like clarification of the term "reasonable doubt." Specifically, is it necessary for the Government to present evidence that it is not humanly possible for someone not to recall an event in order to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Shorter version: Dear Jury, re-read the reasonable doubt instruction, and if you still have a problem, clarify what you mean by "humanly possible." On Matthew Cooper, you can consider all the evidence presented at trial, including all of Libby's grand jury testimony.

Marcy at Firedoglake ( here and here and most recently here)live-blogged the court hearing over how to respond to the jury.

Update: Text version of response below the fold:

Thanks to No Easy Answer for publishing the text version of the Judge's response:

Response to Question One:

The instruction I gave you on reasonable doubt is the most detailed language I can provide you on what amounts to reasonable doubt. I request that you re-read the reasonable doubt instruction and consider all of it in yow evaluation of what amounts to reasonable doubt and what the government's burden of proof is in proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. As to the second part of your questions which asks "is it necessary for the government to present evidence that it is not humanly possible for someone not to recall an event in order to w find guilty beyond a reasonable doubt," I do not fully understand what you mean by "not humanly possible." If you can rephrase the question considering the language I gave you in the reasonable doubt instruction, I will assess whether I can provide further guidance to you.

Response to Question Two:

As to Count One, Statement Three, the charge is set forth in the instructions. In assessing whether the Government has proven the elements of Count One Statement Three beyond a reasonable doubt, you may consider all of the evidence in the case, including any and all portions of Mr. Libby's grand jury testimony.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Jeralyn... (none / 0) (#1)
    by Teresa on Mon Mar 05, 2007 at 11:40:47 AM EST
    Since the verdict form doesn't list the three statements (two Russert, one Cooper) in the obstruction charge individually, why do you think the jury is focusing on the Cooper charge? Does this mean that they don't believe the Russert charges since they only have to find Libby guilty on one of the three?

    Could the jury just be being thorough with each charge before actually filling out the pretty simple verdict form? I realize you'll just be giving your opinion on what the jury is thinking, but I trust your opinion more than mine. Thanks.

    I think (none / 0) (#2)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Mar 05, 2007 at 11:53:14 AM EST
    the jury is just being thorough. They will make findings on all three statements (2 Russert, 1 Cooper in that charge) even though they only need to unanimously find he made one of them (and unanimously agree on which one) and even though the verdict form doesn't require them to specify which one.

    I do think they have finished with Russert.


    Thanks Jeralyn. (none / 0) (#3)
    by Teresa on Mon Mar 05, 2007 at 11:58:07 AM EST
    I hope the jury can figure out the reasonable doubt question and come to a verdict soon. I'm sure all of those involved are ready for this to be over. At least until any appeal (if needed) starts.

    reasonable doubt (none / 0) (#6)
    by zaitztheunconvicted on Mon Mar 05, 2007 at 10:15:18 PM EST
    I think that the judge did not answer properly.

    Unless he had already given the following explanation of reasonable doubt, the answer should have been as follows:

    To prove beyond a reasonable doubt would mean that the evidence and reasoning presented by the prosecution renders the explanation of the defense for the evidence to be unreasonable, and therefore, incredible.  If the explanation of the evidence offered by the defense is unreasonable and incredible, then, you would convict.


    Thanks (none / 0) (#4)
    by annburns on Mon Mar 05, 2007 at 11:59:37 AM EST
    Jeralyn, I mostly lurk but I just want to thank you for your analysis and perspective in covering this case. For a non-lawyer, it has been invaluable to understanding what is going on in this case.

    Thanks for delurking Ann (none / 0) (#7)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Mar 05, 2007 at 10:36:06 PM EST
    Much appreciated!

    reasonable doubt (none / 0) (#5)
    by cmpnwtr on Mon Mar 05, 2007 at 12:39:10 PM EST
    It's hard for me to believe that by this stage jurors haven't resolved individually the issue of reasonable doubt and what does or doesn't constitute reasonable doubt both in an evidentiary and judgement sense. Or is this simply a psychological passage before they actually vote to convict? In other words if you weren't really leaning toward conviction you are unlikely to asking this question.