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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    I cannot believe how badly the government (none / 0) (#1)
    by scribe on Wed Oct 22, 2008 at 02:44:33 PM EST
    handled this case.  It appears this was the first federal criminal trial ever of a sitting Senator (I don't think Larry Craig was, um, sitting, he didn't go to trial, and it was in state court, anyway.) and DoJ didn't make sure all the i's were dotted and t's crossed so as to make sure there would not be any sort of evidentiary screwup.  Particularly of the sort that happened.

    I have no expectation of ever being convinced that Bush's DoJ didn't botch this case on purpose to protect a powerful fellow Republican.

    Anyone want to bet on whether Stevens abdicates his office, assuming he wins re-election in a couple weeks?

    And, the second bet - if he does, what the likelihood is that Palin appoints herself to fill out his term?

    Actually (none / 0) (#2)
    by Steve M on Wed Oct 22, 2008 at 02:53:35 PM EST
    there have been federal criminal trials of sitting Senators before.  Harrison Williams of New Jersey was convicted in the Abscam scandal and thrown out of the Senate afterwards.

    Actually, not any more (none / 0) (#4)
    by andgarden on Wed Oct 22, 2008 at 03:26:03 PM EST
    after the Murkowski debacle, the AK legislature changed the law. The Governor is empowered to call a special election.

    Actually, the law is a little more complicated (none / 0) (#8)
    by andgarden on Wed Oct 22, 2008 at 04:09:08 PM EST
    AS § 15.40.140:
    When a vacancy occurs in the office of United States senator or United States representative, the governor shall, by proclamation, call a special election to be held on a date not less than 60, nor more than 90, days after the date the vacancy occurs. However, if the vacancy occurs on a date that is less than 60 days before or is on or after the date of the primary election in the general election year during which a candidate to fill the office is regularly elected, the governor may not call a special election.

    So, AS § 15.40.145:

    When a vacancy occurs in the office of United States senator, the governor may, at least five days after the date of the vacancy but within 30 days after the date of the vacancy, appoint a qualified individual to fill the vacancy temporarily until the results of the special election called to fill the vacancy are certified. If a special election is not called for the reasons set out in AS 15.40.140, the individual shall fill the vacancy temporarily until the results of the next general election are certified.

    7 counts (none / 0) (#5)
    by WS on Wed Oct 22, 2008 at 03:26:37 PM EST
    Anyone know the 7 charges against him?

    Stevens team was a piece of work (none / 0) (#6)
    by thereyougo on Wed Oct 22, 2008 at 03:38:06 PM EST
    They never justified the gifts, didn't dispute the government's charges. They just said Stevens is a nice guy. Bull

    Loans, gifts, to people in high places is what this case is about and a lawmaker whose been at it for a very long time.

    Stevens knew how to go around the rules, being there 40years makes you good at it. He's got the arrogance to go along with it

    Even if found guilty, the judge has descretion to give him probation or jail time. He should serve, as an example, so the others in the august house in the senate should take note.  

    I imagine he's not the only one that winks and nods while he gets his.

    Interestingly, should it surprise any of us little people, all of the senators are millionaires, and how did they get there? It looks like the Ted Stvens way, with inside info and the ability to make deals among themselves with our tax payer dollars as bargaining chips.

    I'm sick this is happening, but, its reality how our government looks out for their own, much like the mafia. Cynical but thats how I see it.

    Not an exact quote (none / 0) (#9)
    by Fabian on Wed Oct 22, 2008 at 04:42:36 PM EST
    but one of Stevens responses was "I have a lot of things in my house that belong to other people.".

    My mother does too.  In her case it isn't top of the line furniture, it's her kids' stuff.  My sister's stuff from when she moved in with her SO and my brother's stuff, because he lacks storage space and he stows seasonal items in her basement.

    I don't think that's exactly the case with Stevens.  The rich and powerful are frequently not like us at all.  They are their own charities, or "foundations".  (And to think people were quibbling about the Clinton foundation contributors.)


    Stevens's testimony on cross- (none / 0) (#10)
    by oculus on Wed Oct 22, 2008 at 05:11:43 PM EST
    examination, at least the portion I heard on NPR, was quite self-serving.  But, the prosecutor continually asked questions to which she didn't know the answer and she couldn't nail him on his responses.  Weak.