Jury Deliberating in Stevens Trial
Update: (TL)No verdict today after four hours of deliberations.
Ted Stevens' fate is now in the hands of the jury.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan instructed the jury for about 70 minutes on Wednesday, then dismissed the four alternate jurors.
The government's best evidence (apart from a recorded conversation in which Stevens mentions "a little jail time" as the worst outcome of the government's investigation) may have come from Senator Stevens' mouth during his cross-examination. [more ...]
The government showed that Stevens was given a $2,700 vibrating massage chair from a neighbor back home in Girdwood, Alaska. Stevens said the gift was a loan, although it has remained in his Washington home for seven years.
"What were the terms of this loan?" prosecutor Joseph W. Bottini asked in closing remarks Tuesday. "Zero percent interest for 84 months?"
In a close case, jurors sometimes base their verdict on whether they like the defendant. Stevens, who came across as angry and abrupt during his cross-examination, is not a likable witness. On the other hand, his lawyer, Brendan Sullivan, has done a fine job of portraying Stevens as the victim of a prosecutorial witch-hunt. In that context, the jury might see Stevens' anger as an appropriate reaction to an unfair accusation.
The jury may also be influenced by the court's decision to disclose that the prosecution knowingly presented false evidence during the trial. That instruction played nicely into Sullivan's theme that the government is distorting ambiguous evidence to make Stevens appear guilty.
It could take the jurors quite awhile to sort out all the evidence and to decide how they feel about the witnesses. They may well have a reasonable doubt in a case that the government could have handled more professionally. On the other hand, it may be hard to swallow Stevens' claim that he didn't know he had received goods and services for which he hadn't paid. Don't look for a quick verdict in this difficult case.
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